We view with profound concern the illegal arrest and torture of the 43 community health development workers in Morong, Rizal. Among them are the health professionals who decided to stay in our country despite the blatant lack of support system inherent in the State’s health care delivery system. This incident totally defies a logical frame of mind in the face of the abominable health situation of our people.
These are community health workers who are the real health practitioners trying to participate meaningfully in health development and broader community development work while struggling to support their own families.
The arrest and torture of the 43 are appalling. We are horrified by the apparent display of disregard and lack of concern for health care workers who should even be upheld for doing the job and obligation of the government to bring health closer to the people despite, threats to their lives. We are concerned because there is still so much to be done for the marginalized majority whose health needs the State failed to prioritize. We are concerned because the very people who try to bridge this health gap have been subjected to harassment and in a number of instances, killed shamelessly, even if they are unarmed and helpless.
Our government has been sending away world class health professionals for the dollars, draining the country with much needed human resources in health that should have addressed the basic health needs of our people.
The health professionals, especially our best, seem to be traded in Japan for garbage through JPEPA. As if these exploitations and marginalization were not enough, the health workers who chose to stay and respond to the widespread health care needs of our people are now being subjected to different forms of harassment and torture.
Dr. Alexis Montes, who is known among his colleagues as a man of principle and professionalism is now being besmirched by biased claims of the military. They ignore the fact that Dr. Montes is a well-respected health practitioner who has devoted his life contributing to the cause of Community-based Health Programs in most of his medical practice. He is a distinguished member of the United Church for Christ in the Philippines and has helped in the inception of the of the Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries, Inc.
This latest incident exemplifies an indifferent State that is most probably trying to cover up a blunder that it could not hide or suppress anymore with its inutile response to the Maguindanao massacre that clearly pointed to an unprecedented State violence. And now they are preying on hapless health workers whose only weapons are their determination and dedication to bring health to the ‘forsaken’ Filipino people in the hinterlands, in areas where government services come in trickles.
We are disturbed and disheartened that somebody who has been positively identified as responsible for the brutal killing of 57 people in Ampatuan, Maguindanao gets VIP treatment. In contrast, the whole world saw how the health workers were treated when arrested by the military, as if all 43 of them have been convicted criminals, handcuffed and tortured and forced to admit a crime that have no basis at all! Such abominable treatment is cowardly and inutile, actions that are not to be expected from so-called defender of the people’s security who are supposed to be well-disciplined and respectful of the Filipino people’s human rights.
The Filipinos deserve a just, humane, and decent society no less. We believe that each individual’s rights should be respected and upheld. It is within the context of human dignity that the health sector serves the needy. We strongly believe that the 43 health workers are innocent and deserve to be treated as such!
We therefore appeal to all responsible government line agencies to take immediate and responsible action and intervention on the Morong 43. We appeal to the Arroyo government to make the necessary intervention and undo the wrong its military arm is blatantly committing, instead of resorting to red-baiting and witch-hunting.
This is an urgent call to the public now. Let us be vigilant and make our protestation heard, make the State realize its folly. Let us not allow ourselves to be conned into believing that what they are doing is the right thing. Arresting and torturing the health workers are tantamount to suppressing the right of the Filipino people to basic health services. Let us stand our ground and not be cowed into silence and cynicism and fear because that is exactly what this government wants its people to be.
LET US CALL ON THE GOVERNMENT TO RELEASE THE 43 HEALTH WORKERS NOW!
STOP THE HARASSMENT OF THE HEALTH SECTOR!
LET US ALL BE VIGILANT, FOR OUR BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS ARE BEING TAKEN AWAY FROM US!
“RAGE, RAGE INTO THE DYING OF THE LIGHT!
CONCERNED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS OF DAVAO CITY