Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Statement of Support for the 43 Health Workers illegally detained in Camp Capinpin


February 10, 2010

The Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP), a consortium of Community Based Health Programs (CBHPs) in the Negros Island, strongly condemns the raid conducted by the military and the police on the training seminar organized by the Council for Health and Development (CHD) and the Community Medicine Foundation (COMMED) on February 6, 2010 in Morong, Rizal.

The raid resulted in the illegal arrest and detention of the 43 participating health professionals and health workers of the training seminar composed of two doctors, one nurse, one midwife and 39 community health workers.

These health workers have committed themselves to serving the marginalized people in the countryside. True to the principles of CBHP, not only do they give health services, but they endeavor to empower the people so that they themselves can take care of their own health needs. Commitment and service which the government is suppose to provide but fails to do so. Instead of the government being grateful of and encouraging such endeavors, it resorts to the harassment of these committed health workers.

The health workers were handcuffed, blindfolded, denied legal counsel and prevented from being seen by their friends and relatives. Several of the detained health workers were reported to have been tortured, deprived of sleep and were sexually harassed.

Even the Commission on Human Rights was denied by the military of its constitutional mandate to visit the detainees. Only Monday which was already two days after the illegal arrest the CHR Chair Leila de Lima was finally allowed entry. All of this simply reflects the culture of impunity which the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been propagating. And this continues despite the negative reviews that this country has been receiving from local observers and the international community regarding its human rights record.

In contrast to the treatment of these health professionals and health workers we observed the privileged treatment given to the suspects of the Maguindanao massacre. Despite the most gruesome nature of the crime and the vast discovered armory (thanks to the military) the suspects were able to avail of their legal rights such as legal counseling and the visitation by their relatives and friends. Exceeding their legal rights, they were however given VIP treatment during their detention and were not even immediately arrested but they were initially just asked to cooperate. Selective “justice” indeed.

The harassment of the 43 is more than what meets the eye. It symbolizes the harassment of all health workers committed to serve and empower the people deprived of their most basic health needs. It is perpetrated to plant fear into the hearts of health workers and the people so as to stifle the movement to liberate the people from this bondage of disease and powerlessness. But the CBHP movement is undaunted. The people, the community health workers, the health professionals—will continue to struggle to heal the health and social malady that we are in.

Respect human rights!

Stop the harassment of health professionals and community health workers!

Free the 43 healthworkers!

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Justice for the 43!