Lepanto Accused of Blocking Medical Mission

Militarization heightens as Dole orders return-to-work

A medical mission was prevented by the Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) from delivering health services to the more than 1,000 striking workers and their families. This, however, proves to be the least of the union’s concern as military and police presence is increased in the area. They anticipate a dispersal anytime now, reminiscent of the strike in 2003 which resulted in two casualties.

BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
Northern Dispatch

Bulatlat.com

BAGUIO CITY — The giant gold producer Lepanto Consolidated Mining Company (LCMCo) last June 7 blocked the medical team that was supposed to provide health services to the 1,687 striking workers and their families.

The Community Health Education Services and Training in the Corrdillera Region (Chestcore), a Baguio-based non-government organization, sent a medical mission after it learned that LCMCo ordered last June 2 the closure of its hospital. The company reportedly ordered all its medical personnel to take a vacation leave at the height of the strike and advised patients to stay home.

Meanwhile, the Lepanto Employees Union (LEU) condemned the deployment of more military and police forces in the area as the DoLE issued a return-to-work order for the striking workers. The forces beefed up company security headed by former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Col. Wilhelm Doromal, Northern Dispatch sources in the area revealed.

“This is not a war situation, the workers are unarmed, and yet Lepanto is denying medicines and personnel from getting through its gates,” said Dr. Ana Marie R. Leung, executive director of Chestcore. The latter is involved in community health advocacy.

Leung added that the move is a violation of the rights of the workers and their families to health services as she asserts that medical practitioners should be allowed to render services in such a situation.

“In fact, even in a war situation,” Leung said, “medical personnel are respected and allowed passage to deliver health services.”

A member of the team narrates that the security forces claimed that the order not to allow any services for its workers came from LCMCo officials. The team tried to coordinate with the municipal officials to get a permit to service striking workers but to no avail.

The team visited the hospital and did not find any personnel around. They learned that on June 3, LCMCo management allegedly ordered personnel of their hospital not to admit patients because workers are on strike. Hospital personnel reportedly included two nurses but there were no personnel on the next day, they added.

Workers, however, enabled the medical team to conduct check-up and distributed medicines. The team first diagnosed hundreds of workers and families at the picket lines in Nayak, Buaki and Tubo.

The team found a prevalence of diarrhea, hypertension and respiratory infections among strikers, women and children. Chestcore added that another team of medical practitioners is in the area for the health services of the workers and their families.

Water supply cut-off

LEU President Ninian Langagan claimed that the company cut the water supply of most workers’ houses on June 6 and restored it only on June 10. He added that the electricity in the workers’ houses were allegedly also cut off at 6 a.m. and restored it at 6 p.m. Regular electricity was provided starting June 10.

Leung said that cutting water supply aggravates the health situation of workers and their families. “This is another violation of human rights as water is a basic need,” Leung said. “Many diseases are directly linked to lack of a safe drinking water.”

Lepanto denies allegations

Lawyer Weldy Manlong, administrative services manager, denied that the LCMCo cut off the water supply. The pipes from the Mill Site were cut by unidentified persons while those at Gate 5 were the makings of the union, said Manlong.

But the union believed that this is the company’s way of forcing them to go back to work. Since the management realized that what they did are violations of workers’ rights, they restored all these services, the union officials said.

“Lepanto goons”

Lepanto has an undetermined number of security forces who are allegedly former and discharged members of the AFP, claimed a Northern Dispatch source from Mankayan. The security force is headed by former AFP official Wilhelm Doromal, a member of the Rebolusyunaryong Alyansang Makabayan (RAM).

Doromal reportedly issued an order on June 8 to gate security guards not to allow LEU vehicles from entering and leaving Gate 3. This was denounced by LEU as their vehicles are used to transport food to the workers and their families.

Militarization of the strike areas

The striking workers observed that even before they launched the strike on June 2, the 54th IB headed by Lt. Ben Anongos has been deployed in the areas of the striking workers. Anongos is a member of the paramilitary Cordilera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) which is now integrated into the AFP.

Maslian revealed that the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) in the Cordillera Administrative Regon (CAR) and members of the PNP headed by Gaab arrived at the strike area before 12 noon last June 10. Maslian however said that no untoward incident happened between the police and the workers. Nordis / Posted by Bulatlat

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