Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wipe out diseases, not medics

By ADELA DEYAEN WAYAS
www.nordis.net

BAGUIO CITY — “A recurring disease is a cause for alarm. It needs urgent treatment,” a medical worker said.

It is a long established fact that the Philippine government has not given health care priority attention for decades now. The allotment for health services from the national budget says everything.

What is more alarming is that, community health workers are being subjected to threats, harassments, illegal arrest and detention and worse extrajudicial killings by those who are supposed to protect them, the elements of the state security forces.

Based on the budget allocation for health in 2010, the government spent P252.49 for every Filipino for the whole year or a staggering P0.70 for every Filipino a day. This year, the Aquino administration even cut down on the health budget from the P 398.9 billion in 2010 to P 361.1 billion.

In the Cordillera, most interior communities in the region have long been marginalized and neglected by the government. Like other basic social services the government failed to deliver basic health care services to these communities.

This situation gave birth to Cordillera Health Services Eduction and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), a non government organization promoting community based approaches and strategies to address health care problems in the region and in adjacent communities in Northern Luzon.

CHESTCORE Executive Director Romella Rasalan disclosed that they are subjected to various forms of harassment while on field work by state security forces that include soldiers belonging to Philippine Army (PA), Philippine National Police (PNP), Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and other paramilitary groups deployed in the Cordillera interiors.

Rasalan explained that CHESTCORE was established primarily to address govern-ment’s failure to provide basic health care services in the far flung barrios of the region through their community based health program.

She added that this program aims to develop community health workers to respond to their basic health care needs.

“It is therefore logical that we go to the far flung barrios because these are the most neglected areas. These areas need medical services the most,” Rasalan stressed.

She explained that CHESTCORE trains community folks on basic community health care services to cover for the absence of government health workers. She said they also teach the use of medicinal plants to cover for the lack of basic medicines.

The group also conducts medical missions usually in disaster stricken, epidemic affected and militarized areas. Services include physical and dental check ups, and stress debriefing as well as provision of necessary medicines.

Rasalan further said the CHESTCORE staff are health professionals that include doctors, nurses, psychologists and others.

She pointed out that instead of seeking employment in urban areas and abroad these professionals chose to serve and work with the indigenous peoples, farmers, laborers, small scale miners and urban poor here in the region.

“It is unjust that we who volunteer to assist these communities are falsely accused, harassed and endangered. It is unjust that communities who organize and mobilize themselves for self-help are also harassed and endangered. It is even more unjust that, as a result of all these, the people’s health situation deteriorates further,” Rasalan stressed.

Despite the long list of human rights violations of state security forces the government alloted a bigger chunk of the national budget to military spending. The military budget has increased by 80%, from P96.2 billion in 2010 to P 104.7 billion in 2011.

In a glaring contrast, the budget of public hospitals decreased while the budget of military hospitals increased this 2011.

The budget of military hospitals like the AFP Medical Center and Veterans Memorial Medical Center were increased by P923 million and P130.7 million respectively.

The budget of 12 major public hospitals, such as Jose Reyes Memorial, Rizal Medical, East Avenue Medical, Quirino Memorial, Tondo Medical, Jose Fabella Memorial, among others, was reduced by P4 million and subsidies for indigent under the National Health Insurance Program would be effectively reduced by P1.67 billion this year.

As the military budget increase so does the number of victims of threat, harassment, intimidation, illegal arrest and detention, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations. In most of these cases perpetrators are identified or suspected elements of the military.

Despite the AFP’s pronouncements that the new internal peace and security plan Oplan Bayanihan which started last December, respects human rights in its “people-centered approach”, the rampage continue.

According to Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA) Secretary General Jude Baggo, from January to February alone, 10 EJKs were recorded in the national level.

He added that there are already 43 documented cases of EJKs since PNoy assumed the presidency. This figure includes the latest victim Bonifacio Labasan, 61 of San Mateo, Isabela coordinator of Danggayan dagiti Mannalon iti Cagayan Valley.

“A healthy people is the wealth of a nation. We, community health workers provide alternative to the chronic insufficient health care services in far flung barrios. We do not deserve persecution. The perpetrators of human rights violations are those who deserve punishment,” Rasalan stressed.#www.nordis.net

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