Gary Liberal: Dedicated Head Nurse, Committed Unionist Now Finds Self Under the Gun

Gravest Injustice to Health Workers

On Thursday health workers from different public hospitals in Metro Manila gathered to call for the release of their fellow health workers now detained in Camp Capinpin in Rizal.

Health workers from JRMMC, San Lazaro Hospital, Tondo Medical Center, Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center and National Center for Mental Health, called for the release of their fellow public health workers such as Gary Liberal, and Lydia Obera, a longtime staff of AHW. After holding a press conference in Quezon City they protested in front of the Department of National Defense and then drove to Camp Capinpin to give support to their detained colleagues.

From Negros where Gary’s family lives, his mother Mommy Chichi Liberal, arrived the day before to visit Gary. “I sent him to school,” she said. Gary got his nursing degree from the Silliman University in Dumaguete City in 1990. “I raised him well. He’s been honest in his work and in his job. He’s a quiet person. He’s not against the government, that’s why he’s working in the government,” Mommy Chichi said. “Until now, he’s serving the people. I don’t know why they arrested him,” she said in the press conference.

“I hope Gary and the 42 others will be set free soon,” Mommy Chichi tearfully prayed. She said it pains her family to hear of the arrest and continued detention of Gary and 42 other health workers. “What are their crimes?”

“Gary can’t make explosives or hold guns but he can take your blood pressure and temperature, he could assist doctors in the operating room and direct his fellow nurses,” Manuel said. “Gary and the rest of the health workers being detained by the military have no crimes except their commitment to serve the health needs of the people, especially of those underserved by the government,” she added.

“Gary and Mama Del, AHW’s longtime staff, both champion the delivery of health services. They genuinely serve the interests of the health workers and of our patients, why were they arrested?” said Danny Palma, president of the union of employees at the Philippine Heart Center.

“I’m sure Gary is a member of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), not NPA,” said Dr. Leah Paquiz, president of Ang Nars Partylist.

“Health workers in public hospitals have never been given proper importance in our country. Burdened with low salaries, inadequate benefits and worsening working conditions, it is almost heroic for us to stay on and serve the Filipino patients,” said Manuel, who is also an employee at the Tondo Medical Center. “Illegally arresting and detaining health workers like Gary, Lydia and others, is the gravest injustice this government can do to us and to our patients.”

Union leaders of health workers charged that the AFP, who is supposed to be the people’s protector, acted as tormentor instead of those who deliver health services. “We condemn the illegal arrest, the abusive soldiers for planting evidences against the health workers,” said Benjamin Santos, president of union of employees at the PGH. They urged all health workers and the public to support the struggle of the 43 for freedom. (

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