Lydia Obera: Public Health Workers Miss Their ‘Mama Del’


MANILA — Since the Feb. 6 raid and detention of 43 health workers while undergoing health training in Morong, Rizal, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) has also been missing Mama Del, or Lydia Obera, 61.

Mama Del, the AHW said in a statement, is the “tireless AHW staff who regularly gives us updates and invites us to activities for salary increases and adequate benefits.” Mama Del has worked with health workers and assisted in trainings and medical missions for over 20 years now.

“She is a community health worker who wanted to help people with medical needs. She and others like her painstakingly reach out to the poor and in farflung areas. They go out of their way to do sacrifices without asking for much in return,” said Weng Magbanua, Mama Del’s niece.

Mama Del is well-known among members of AHW. “She’s very active in organizing union members. She’s in our house often. Whenever our unions have activities, or we have services for our member health workers, she’s there with us,” said Ernie Espinosa, union president of the employees at National Center for Mental Health.

“I miss Mama Del’s ‘kumusta na ga?’ (How are you?)” said Benjamin Santos, union president of health workers in Philippine General Hospital (PGH). “Along with Gary, union president of health workers at JRMMC and our firm ally in many a health workers’ struggle, we are grieving over what’s happening to them.”

It is sad that despite their noble services, this is how the government would repay them, Santos said in a press conference last Thursday before they trooped to Camp Capinpin to give support to the detained 43 health workers.

“We now fear that if they are suspecting us, they can just plant evidence against us for charges they want to slap on us,” Santos added.

Mama Del, who’s been actively serving the health workers’ union for over 20 years now, and Gary Liberal, who’s been present at work as nurse for the past 18 years now, cannot inconceivably be regarded as members of the New People’s Army, Espinosa said.He said the AFP is merely manufacturing its charges so it could claim to have captured some NPAs, with the deadline of their Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) looming this year.

Espinosa railed at the reports that some health worker detainees are in solitary confinement. “If this country of ours is truly democratic, as it says so, release the health workers now,” Espinosa said. (

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