Tabuk doctors close clinics in outcry over Claver ambush
Sunburnt farmers and indigenous elders joined doctors, lawyers, religious, local government officials, student youth and progressive groups in holding a protest funeral and demanding justice for the Clavers and other victims of death-squad killings and abductions.
by Kimberly N. Quitasol
TABUK, Kalinga — An estimated 1,000 people poured into the streets of this capital town to join the Claver and Omengan families in laying to rest their beloved Alyce, amid a snowballing mass protest against the “Bloody Monday” ambush that killed her and critically wounded her husband Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver.
Sunburnt farmers and indigenous elders joined doctors, lawyers, religious, local government officials, student youth and progressive groups in holding the protest funeral and demanding justice for the Clavers and other victims of death-squad killings and abductions.
The Claver couple and a daughter were negotiating a U-turn in front of St. Toni’s College in Tabuk at 6:45 a.m. of July 31, when armed men peppered their car with M16 rifles and cal.45 handguns. Alyce expired some hours later at the Kalinga Provincial Hospital. Their daughter was unhurt.
Chandu, who is widely presumed to be the main target of the attack, holds key positions in the Kalinga chapters of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA), Bayan Muna (People First), and Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC). Alyce was also a CPA activist in her younger days and remained a staunch supporter of CPA, Bayan Muna, and her husband’s militancy even when he began receiving death threats.
The ambush catalyzed the whole Tabuk community into a series of protest actions.
On Aug. 1, over 150 members of the Kalinga Medical Society (KMS), Kalinga Apayao Religious Society Association (KARSA), and other Tabuk-based professionals trooped to the PNP provincial headquarters in Camp Juan Duyan to demand immediate justice for the victims. The rallyists first held a protest program at the Bulanao junction, the ambush site, before proceeding to Camp Duyan some 200 meters away.
On the same day, Kalinga doctors announced that they were indefinitely closing clinics and out-patient departments of hospitals to protest the ambush and earlier killings in Kalinga, which is widely perceived as part of a bloody nationwide campaign by death squads to silence all types of legal opposition.
The Tabuk Municipal Council also unanimously passed a resolution condemning the attack on the Claver couple, who belong to the prominent Claver and Omengan clans.
Earlier, over 100 protestors led by the CPA marched through Baguio City’s main thoroughfares on the afternoon of July 31, and held a program at the Igorot Park despite heavy rains.
CPA chairperson Joan Carling blamed Kalinga PNP Provincial Director Pedro Ramos for the ambush, and added that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the AFP-PNP should be held responsible for the death of Alyce and other victims of political killings.
Carling criticized regional and Kalinga PNP officials for claiming, in a radio interview right after the ambush, that Claver was a member of the underground National Democratic Front (NDF).
“Why did the PNP identify him as an NDF personality only minutes after he was ambushed? Is it to justify the ambush? Granted that he is an NDF member, should he be killed? Where is due process here?” Carling said.
Beverly Longid, vice chairperson of the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance (CHRA), noted that the ambush happened just a week after Macapagal-Arroyo said in her state of the nation address that she condemned political killings. “This only shows the hypocrisy of the government,” Longid said.
In a statement, the CHRA claimed that the worsening political killings, which now occur nationwide at the average rate of one incident every two days, are the result of GMA’s declaration of total war against a broad range of opposition forces that the AFP and PNP consider as Left.
“Are doctors now considered enemies of the state and targets of Mrs. Arroyo’s all out war? Are doctors who choose to work in the far-flung areas outside the ambit of government patronage now considered NPA supporters and can be subjected to extra-judicial killing? Or are we just ‘acceptable collateral damage’ as Sec. Raul Gonzales lucidly puts? It is clear that the impetus for the wanton and escalating violence is the implicit approval of the ruling regime and Mrs. Arroyo herself,” Dr. Gene Alzona Nisperos, Secretary General of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said in a statement. (With report from Sarah Dekdeken) Northern Dispatch/Posted by Bulatlat