Council for Health and Development (CHD) today expresses firm solidarity with CHESTCORE (Community Health, Education, Services and Trainings in the Cordillera Region), a fellow community-based health program based in Baguio City on the spate of continuous threats and harassments on its staff.
Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, CHD executive director said that their group is outraged by the lack of decisive action of the Aquino government regarding the safety and well-being of Community Health Workers (CHW). “For decades, CHWs risked life and limb to serve communities deprived of public health service,” she said.
Jara added that CHWs give health skills and services such as trainings, first aid, and traditional medicine without expecting anything in return. “Our community-based health programs continue to enjoy massive support from the vulnerable communities that we serve – that is how we thrived and endured countless challenges in our programs’ 38 years of existence,” Jara explained.
The doctor is concerned about how the government tolerates the culture of impunity in the country.
By not doing anything to protect those who protect the marginalized from diseases, the government in effect “encourages perpetrators of human rights violations to continue to prey on CHWs and other health workers” such as in the cases of CHESTCORE staff Milagros Ao-wat, Germelina Cynthia Dacanay and Rosalinda Suyam.
Cases of human rights violations reached its peak during former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term. Various people’s health organizations in the country held Arroyo accountable for the illegal detention and torture of several CHWs and health professionals like the ‘Morong 43’.
CHD is challenging the current administration to order the investigation of human rights violations and reported harassments to CHWs in the Cordillera and other regions.
“Mr. Aquino’s sincerity to protect human rights and ensure people’s access to health remains to be seen. We hope to see the day when no CHW or health professional will never have to think twice in serving far-flung communities just because they fear for their lives and safety,” Jara concluded.
Reference: Dr. Eleanor A. Jara
0917-9789297 / (+632) 929-8109
THE REGIONAL STATE PROSECUTOR
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DOJ)
It has been more than five months since the Aquino Government publicly announced the possibility of releasing all political prisoners by having their cases reviewed by the Department of Justice, allow us to quote relevant news accounts on the matter to wit:
“Malacanang yesterday said it is open to the idea of a General Amnesty to all political prisoners as proposed by former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., but made it clear that this would have to be subjected to a thorough review first”, (Palace may free more detainees, Coloma says thorough review needed; Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI); 2010 December 13; p.1)
“We have thought of that (review of cases of political prisoners) but we haven’t had the time to really put the mechanisms in place. But we have thought of that already”, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in an interview last week (NPA Leader Not a Peace Talks Adviser, Insists Gov’t; Philippine Daily Inquirer; 2011 January 24; p.7)
We, therefore would like to formally ask your office for developments regarding this preview, especially since the human rights groups Karapatan had already provided the DOJ National Office an updated list of political prisoners in early March this year.
As about 80% of the 350 political prisoners in the country today were arrested, tortured and detained during Arroyo’s nine-year reign, we hope as an imperative of justice and accountability that the P-Noy Administration through the DOJ will be able to rectify the wrong done to us by the past regime’s brutal Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) counter-insurgency campaign, as a consequence of our active role in opposing the GMA Presidency’s corrupt, murderous and immoral rule.
We believe that political prisoners deserve at least the same swift release as that so willingly given to the so-called military rebels implicated in the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny, 2006 Fort Bonifacio stand-off and the 2007 Manila Peninsula siege.
To dramatize our call for the review of cases of all political prisoners, we are going to hold a one week- fasting from April 17 (Palm Sunday) to 23 (Black Saturday), subsisting only on water and five biscuits daily on said rates.
“Whatever it takes, we are determined to make those torturers pay for their crimes.”
With sheer determination in their faces, six of the Morong 43 who filed a civil suit against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, et. al said that the cases they filed last April 4 is their contribution to end the culture of impunity in the country.
“My colleagues and I are utterly unfazed by what Col. Baladad and Col. Parlade are rattling in the media. They should do better than to recycle old arguments that we are members of the NPA. Our message is clear and strong, human rights violators must be made accountable for their crimes,” Gary Liberal, R.N., one of the plaintiffs said.
Liberal added that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the top military officials named in their complaint are delusional for thinking they can get away with their crimes. “We enjoin all victims of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration to file a case and pursue justice.”
He ended that Macapagal-Arroyo and her cohorts should brace themselves for more lawsuits from their victims. “This is our contribution to end impunity in this country,” Liberal said.## Reference:
Carlos Montemayor, RN
0922 499 6237 / (+632) 929 8109
Health workers from different hospitals in Metro Manila staged a lunch-picket in front of the Philippine Heart Center urging the government to implement a necessary increase in wages, this amidst the recent wave of price hikes. (Cris Balleta/Felix Latuna/Jaime de Guzman)
Repost from www.kodao.org
Reacting to the filing of civil cases against then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) by former detainees and members of the Morong 43, CHESTCORE expressed full support to their fellow health workers for pursuing their fight for justice to its end by making the Commander-in-Chief at that time of their illegal arrest and detention, accountable, even if they are now released.
CHESTCORE Executive Director Mia Liquigan-Rasalan said that with the many human rights violations committed under the GMA administration, she (GMA) must not get away with it even as she now hides under the cloak of Congress as Pampanga’s 2nd District congresswoman. Liquigan-Rasalan made this statement, as she recalls that the cases CHESTCORE filed with the Commission on Human Rights and the Joint Peace Panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the ongoing Peace Talks, were committed since 2007, clearly a period under GMA.
CHESTCORE, a private organization promoting community-based approaches and strategies in health care in Northern Luzon since 1981, came out last March 17 in a press conference, exposing surveillance, intimidation and harassment reaching death threats by state forces on their office, their fieldwork and individual staff in recent months.
Among the staff, there is fear that their plight can similarly end up like those of their fellow health workers in Morong 43. Worse, some of them who have received death threats may also end up like Leonard Co, a fellow CHESTCORE staff back in the 80’s who was shot in Leyte in what government troops claim to be a crossfire . “But we can draw strength when fellow victims pursue their fight”, said Rayne Suyam, one CHESTCORE staff who has been in communities where the harassment happened, in talking about the Morong 43 filed case.
As they pursue their campaign calling for a stop to the harassment of community health workers, CHESTCORE said this is their contribution in the assertion of people’s right to health as well as in bringing GMA to justice for the many grave human rights violations marked by a record-high number of extra-judicial killings committed under her term.
They also challenged Pres. Aquino, to ensure that the wheels of justice will be quick and fair for Morong 43 and that he withdraw Oplan Bayanihan, a more deceptive anti-government program that replaced the dreaded Oplan Bantay Laya of the Pres. Arroyo.
CHESTCORE, together with the UP Student Council and the UP Kasarian Gender Studies Center, will be holding a forum entitled “Stop the Harassment of Cordillera Health Workers!” as part of the continuing campaign. This forum, which will feature testimonies of community health workers from CHESTCORE, from the communities and from Morong 43, will be on April 14, 2011, 8:30 – 12:00 noon at the College of Social Science Audio Visual Room (CSS AVR) of the University of the Philippines Baguio.
Taking their struggle to the next level, former detainees and members of the so called Morong 43 trooped to the Quezon City Hall of Justice today to formally file a civil case against top ranking government and military officials believed to be behind the gross injustices they were made to suffer in the 10 months that they were unlawfully detained.
The plaintiffs are suing for damages totaling P15 million for physical and psychological torture and other forms of indignities they suffered during their illegal arrest and detention. Defendants named in the suit are former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, former Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado, Gen. Delfin N. Bangit, former commander of the 2nd Infantry Division (ID) Gen. Jorge Segovia, commander of the intelligence unit of the 2nd IDPA Lt. Col. Cristobal Zaragosa, 2nd IDPA Warden Major Manuel Tabion, commander of the 202nd Infantry Batallion (IB) Col. Aurelio Baladad, 16th IBPA commander Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, and Rizal Provincial Police Office commander P/Supt. Marion Balolong.
The case was filed by six of the Morong 43 health workers namely, Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, registered nurse Gary Liberal, registered midwife Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta, and Mercy Castro.
With the filing of the suit, the health workers said that they are taking on a new chapter in their quest for justice. “We want to send a strong message that one cannot just get away with human rights violations. This is our contribution to efforts in making sure that human rights violators are made accountable for their actions,” Liberal, one of the plaintiffs, said.
Liberal furthered that they are aware of the red-scare tactics the military is once again attempting to employ citing the AFP’s press releases that their troops identified four former Morong 43 detainees in 2 separate clashes between the New People’s Army and AFP soldiers in Luzon. “If there is one thing that the military is very good at, it is recycling terrible arguments such as the Morong 43 being members of the NPA. Their own lies further expose their institution as prime human rights violators. Nobody believes them anymore,” Liberal stressed.
He added that the Filipino people and thousands of citizens from more than 32 countries, many of them prominent in their fields of expertise, serve as their inspiration in the filing of civil case.
Free the 43 Health Workers! Alliance’s Carlos Montemayor added that their group fully support the Morong 43’s quest for justice. He said that their group will never tire of “beating the gongs of human rights issues” even if most of the Morong 43 are now free. Two of them, Rogelio Villarasis and Mario Delos Santos, are still detained at Camp Bagong Diwa because of trumped up charges against them. Their legal counsels are still working for their release.
As the new commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, the alliance challenged the Aquino government to ensure that the military and police will fully cooperate in the court hearings. They also enjoined the public to keep their vigilance to avoid any whitewash.##
Reference: Carlos Montemayor, R.N.
(+63922) 499-6237 / (+632) 929-8109
In February 6, 2010, 43 health workers conducting a medical training in Morong, Rizal were arrested and accused of being members of the communist New People's Army. They suffered physical and psychological torture while in military custody.
"43" is a short documentary on the plight of the arrested health workers. It uses shadowplay to dramatize their experience in the hands of their captors.
a film by Southern Tagalog Exposure and Anino Shadowplay Collective
Featuring the voices of Joel Lamangan, Bibeth Orteza, Soliman Cruz and Bobby Balingit