Antipolo City, Philippines—Health Alliance for Democracy (Head) slapped the Armed Forces of the Philippines for allegedly doing a witch-hunt among the members of the medical community, especially to those who are members of the non-governmental organizations tagged as communist fronts.
Last Saturday, 43 health workers, including two doctors, a midwife and a nurse were arrested while in medical training in a farmhouse in Morong, Rizal around 47 kilometers, south of Manila.
Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, Head’s secretary-general, in a statement, said that after blatantly disregarding the most fundamental tenets of due process, the AFP now has the gall to prop up false charges against those whose basic rights they have violated.
61-year old, hypertensive doc can’t be an NPA
She refers to the earlier statements issued by the military that Dr. Alex Montes, a member of the Community Medicine Development Foundation or Commed is one of the New People’s Army’s big-wigs and was tasked to liquidate former general and now Bantay Partylist Rep. Jovito S. Palparan Jr.
Dr. Rivera explains Dr. Montes is a known surgeon and an elder of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP).
“After receiving his medical degree from the University of the East College of Medicine in 1976, he has been active in the community service and had been the UCCP’s national coordinator for health and services for two decades,” she said.
The 61-year old surgeon is described to be soft spoken and mild mannered and no one can imagine that he can be a top leader of the communist NPA.
“He needed to be released for the old man is suffering from hypertension,” Dr. Rivera said in an e-mail.
Taking away mothers
Meanwhile, Dr. Merry Mia of the Council for Health and Development (CHD) was also one of the 43 health workers arrested.
The 34-year old lady doctor had joined the CHD as a community physician in 2004, three years after obtaining her medical degree from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila in 2001. She is also a mother of two boys; the youngest is 11 months old who is turning one this coming February 19.
“When they arrested Dr. Mia, it is just like they have left two young kids an orphan,” Dr. Rivera said.
Dr. Rivera furthered that midwife Teresa Quinawayan, also with CHD, has a three year old daughter, Paula who is needing her mother’s care.
Moreover, Dr. Rivera said the two doctors were actively involved during the relief operations after Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. They spearheaded the “First Responders Training for Life Support” aimed to enable communities, through health volunteers, to be able to respond in times of calamities, Dr. Rivera said.
“Yet instead of recognizing their contribution and sacrifice, these people are being vilified and demonized by the AFP. Military officers like Brigadier General Jorge Segovia, Colonel Aurelio Baladad, and Lieutenant Colonel Noel Detoyato are worse than criminals for the sheer number of laws they violated in conducting their illegal arrest and detention,” said Rivera.
Bayan Muna to sue AFP
On the other hand, Bayan Muna partylist is now readying a lawsuit against the top honchos of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police for arresting the 43.
In a statement, Bayan Muna Reps. Teodoro Casiño and Atty. Neri Colmenares said that they will file charges against the arresting team for abduction, illegal arrest, detention, and harassment of 43 health workers.
“The Army spokesman mentioned they captured firearms, bombs and Bayan Muna campaign materials in the raid, with the intention of implicating our party-list with armed rebels, when in fact there were none. This raid is clearly part of the AFP’s evil plot to vilify community health doctors and party-list groups working for the poor in far-flung areas, and to justify their attacks against legitimate organizations fighting for human rights. We call on every freedom-loving Filipino not to be cowed by such harassments and to strive even more in seeking justice. We should still make the Arroyo regime accountable for its more than 1000 victims of extrajudicial killings and over 200 victims of enforced disappearances,” says Casiño.
Meanwhile, Colmenares who is the secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), on the same statement, said the the AFP and PNP abducted the 43 health workers since the procedures employed by the arresting parties were all illegal and disrespectful of human rights.
“The search warrant was defective, the forcible entry and search were illegal, the planting of evidence was obvious, the manner of arrest and detention disregarded due process. The 43 accused have been denied their rights to a doctor and to legal counsel. Up to now, there is no case against them; instead they are accused by the Army as NPA rebels undergoing a bomb-making training. The raiding team also timed it on a Saturday to make sure the victims would languish for two whole days in their custody since the courts are closed on weekends,” Atty. Colmenares explained.
He also added that they can also sue the spokespersons of the AFP and the PNP for implicating Bayan Muna and for aiming to vilify their party-list. News reports said that among the evidences recovered in the area include the Bayan Muna campaign materials.
“They are public officials and that act of linking Bayan Muna to a fabricated crime. Their black propaganda efforts is partisan political activity and an election offense under the Omnibus Election Code,” ends Atty. Colmenares. (Pilipinas Reporter/CBCPNews.com)