By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Most of the Philippines’s indigenous peoples live in the mountains or in farflung hard-to-reach villages seldom reached by government’s social services, including health care. “Often, we only receive health care and needed medical attention through medical missions and health services being provided by community health workers,” Richard Gadid, an Ifugao Tuwali and treasurer of Katribu Partylist, said Saturday before members of the press and relatives of 43 detained health workers.
Gadid explained that since the health workers’ arrest, the health services his fellow indigenous peoples have come to anticipate seem in danger of slowing or getting stalled.
“That is why we are furious over the arrest and continued detention of the 43 community health workers,” Gadid said, adding that very few come to them to give medical aid, and yet this few are being arrested and jailed.
First-Ever “Katribu Kalasag Citation”
Ahead of Women’s Day on March 8, Katribu partylist cited women health workers, particularly the 26 currently detained in Camp Capinpin, “for bringing health service to the poor and far-flung indigenous communities neglected by the government, for performing their medical duty to country and people at the risk of being arrested and tagged as rebels.”
The indigenous peoples honor and thank the the detained health workers with the “Katribu Kalasag Citation.”
Katribu bestows the “Katribu Kalasag Citation” on the women health workers currently detained in Camp Capinpin (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
“It is the least thing that we, indigenous beneficiaries of their selfless care and free health service, can do to thank them,” said Katribu Partylist president Beverly Longid.
Longid belongs to the tribe Bontoc-Kankanaey of Mountain Province. She explained that the award, given out by Katribu for the first time, is inspired by the “kalasag” or shield. It is made of wood and accentuated with carvings historically used by indigenous peoples to defend themselves from beasts and enemy attack.
For Katribu, the award also symbolizes the collective resolve of human rights advocates to defend the rights of the women health workers from further abuse and attack perpetrated by their captors who are supposed to be the protector of the people.
Katribu gave the families of health workers a replica of the shield and a certificate of recognition.
The citation, Katribu said, is a recognition of the women’s courage and commitment to health care for indigenous peoples. (Photo by Marya Salamat / bulatlat.com)
“Twenty-six of the health workers are women, sisters, wives and mothers — two are even pregnant. Yet, their resolve to care not only for their families amidst their plight exemplify the courage and character of women,” Longid said of the detained health workers.
Katribu hopes to boost the morale of the victims and their families, “reminding them that their sacrifices are appreciated by the people and inspire the struggle to defend human rights.”
In behalf of the 26 detained women health workers, Perla Gonzales, the mother of Jacqueline Gonzales, accepted the award and reiterated their calls to free the 43 health workers. “The military also has daughters, mothers, wives. We appeal to them: please, give our relatives freedom and justice,” Mrs. Gonzales said. (Bulatlat.com)