On February 11, 2010, Benjei Faldas, a community health worker in Davao del Sur was reportedly charged with frustrated murder following the wounding of a CAFGU member in an encounter with the New People’s Army. He is prevented from performing his duties as a community health worker.
In July last year, Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca Jr., a respected psychiatrist at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and chairperson emeritus of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), filed a complaint before the CHR regarding his inclusion, together with four Davao-based doctors, in the military’s “Order of Battle” thus making him vulnerable to being targeted for “neutralization” by military and paramilitary “death squads”.
This was a month after another Davao-based physician, Dr. Rogelio Peñera, was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants near his house in Davao City.
In 2008, Dr. Oliver Gimenes, a community-based doctor serving farmers’ communities in Cebu and Bohol, was placed under surveillance by the military and was vilified as a “rebel sympathizer”. He was later charged with murder in a questionable criminal case stemming from an NPA raid of a military detachment.
In 2007, sisters Emilia and Maricris Quirante, both community health workers of Guihulngan Mountain Clinic in Negros Oriental were arrested for trumped-up charges of child abuse and rebellion.
In July 2006, unidentified armed men ambushed Dr. Chandu Claver and his family in Kalinga province. The attack killed Dr. Claver’s wife, Alyce, seriously injured Dr. Claver himself, and traumatized their young daughter.
These attacks share several characteristics: they are politically-motivated; they are directed against those who serve poor communities or underserved sectors; the government attempts to justify these attacks by red-baiting the victims; and they have all been all perpetrated with impunity.
As the government’s self-imposed deadline to defeat or “render inconsequential” the communist-led armed revolutionary movement draws near, the military will even be more hard-pressed to show results. Thus, human rights violations are bound to continue and even escalate.
What are the implications of the arrest of the 43 health workers?
The illegal arrest, illegal detention and torture committed against the 43 health workers by the AFP are clear violations of human rights. The methods resorted to by the military are clearly unconstitutional, show a blatant disregard for the rule of law and pose a grave threat to ordinary Filipinos everywhere.
This incident is disturbing for health professionals and health science students as it imperils the people’s initiatives and efforts to build their own capacity and capability to manage their health needs in the absence of adequate public service.
For health professionals who may be considering the option of public service, this incident has a chilling effect. For the community-oriented academe, this single act of the military could undo decades of encouraging graduates to stay in the Philippines and create the necessary exposure and experience in community-based health trainings
This will deprive the people of much needed health services which will worsen the already deplorable state of health.
What are our demands and calls?
The campaign “FREE THE 43” demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal and are currently illegally detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal. We also demand that all the false charges against them be dropped.
We hold to account all the government officials involved in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the 43 including those who have command responsibility over the military and police forces directly involved in the incident.
The complaint filed before the CHR states those responsible as:
“The President of the Republic of the Philippines herself, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is primarily responsible as Commander-in-Chief under the principle of command responsibility because she knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the state forces were committing or about to commit the crimes stated in this complaint.
The public officials and cabinet secretaries also responsible for gross violations of Constitutional rights following the doctrine of command responsibility include National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
Meanwhile, the public officers who are also exercising command responsibility over the 202nd IB, 2nd ID PA and the Rizal Provincial Police, PNP and directly responsible for the illegal search, illegal arrests, physical and mental torture and other blatant violations of the Constitutional rights of the 43 doctors and health workers are Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, Commanding General, SOLCOM, Philippine Army; Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Col. Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion; Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa; and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police.
In the same vein, the Honorable Judge Cesar Mangrobang is also responsible for the issuance of the bogus and constitutionally defective Search Warrant that the military and police officers used to justify the raid of the farmhouse located at 266 Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal.
State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, the Department of Justice Prosecutor who conducted the defective inquest of the 43 doctors, nurses and medical workers and issued the Resolution indicting them with trumped-up charges, and Senior Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Severino Gaña, the reviewing prosecutor who signed the findings of Prosecutor Romeo Senson, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera are accountable for their complicity in the efforts to legitimize the military and police’s commission of human rights violations.”
We demand an end to the counter-insurgency program OBL, which has targeted unarmed civilians accused of supporting the NPA, in the name of fighting insurgency.
We call on freedom-loving people to make a stand for human rights and condemn in the strongest terms the human rights violations perpetrated with impunity by the Arroyo government.
(This primer was prepared by Free the 43 Health Workers)