By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — A volunteer doctor for the Health Action for Human Rights was denied entry at a detention facility in Bulacan where two urban poor activists are currently detained.
In a Facebook post, Geneve Reyes, who is also the secretary general of Health Action for Human Rights took the incident in stride, asking netizens on how to “look more like a doctor,” after the jail officer mocked her on Sept. 2, Monday, asking if she was really a doctor.
Reyes later told Bulatlat that she was in Bulacan Provincial Jail to visit detained activists Reynaldo Remias and John Grifen Arlegui, per the request of urban poor group Kadamay.
The two activists were part of an electorial sortie for then senatorial hopeful and human rights lawyer Neri Colmenares when they were abducted in broad daylight back in April. They were later surfaced by the Bulacan police, and slapped with trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms.
Gloria Arellano of Kadamay told Bulatlat that both have been reportedly down with chronic fever possibly due to the poor conditions inside the provincial jail.
Still, Reyes was told by the jail officer that Mondays are not part their schedule of visits. She was denied entry to the Bulacan Provincial Jail even after presenting her identification card from the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) and invoking the provisions stipulated in the Republic Act No. 7438 or the Rights of Persons Arrested, Detained, or Under Custodial Investigation.
The law stipulates the right of the detained to have access to doctors of their choice to be examined or treated “at any hour of the day or, in urgent cases, of the night.” Those who will be obstruct such right, the law further stipulates, may suffer a penalty of imprisonment between four to six years and a fine of P4,000.
Reyes said the jail officers apparently did not know the law and even had to confer with their warden. Two hours later, another officer talked to the doctor over the phone, asking for proof that she was indeed sent by the detainees’ lawyer even when she was already accompanied by a Kadamay paralegal.
This is not the first time that doctors have been denied access to detainees even when they are accompanied by either lawyers or relatives. Reyes, in fact, was among the doctors who were denied access to the 43 health workers illegally arrested and subjected to torture back in 2010 – more known now as “Morong 43.”
She said that while there are detention centers that respect the right of detained individuals, “there are still those which are shamelessly ignorant of the law, and are even proud of it. It is not surprising, given the kind of leadership that they have. No proper awareness of the law, no proper role model. Simple disrespect for others.”