By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Four leaders of progressive groups were arrested in separate incidents in Butuan City last weekend, according to human rights group Karapatan in Caraga region.
Arrested were community health worker Vilma Dalangin-Yecyec, Gabriela Women’s Partylist Coordinator Gina Tutor, PISTON Spokesperson Isaias “Sayas” Ginorga, and Pamalakaya-Agusan del Norte member Greco Regala.
Police in Caraga claimed in a statement that those arrested are high ranking members of the New People’s Army. Three of them are being implicated in the killing of members of the Manobo tribe and former New People’s Army fighters in the region but rights group assert that all of them are active in the people’s organizations based in the city.
Two of those arrested are both 72 years old. One of them, Yecyec, was arrested on Feb. 6, in Mainit, Surigao del Norte. According to the group, she was taken to Camp Rafael Rodriguez, Butuan City.
Read: #Manilakbayan | ‘I’m an educator and health worker, not an NPA’
Yecyec is suffering from various ailments, according to Karapatan.
The Council for Health and Development condemned the arrest. “Yet again, for perpetually failing to quell people’s resistance against the quagmire of poverty and oppression that breeds disease, state forces went after the unarmed civilian merely doing what she does best from decades ago up to the twilight of her life — serving the people through community-based health work,” CHD said.
On the same day, Tutor also arrested in her home in Buenavista while Regala was arrested in Tubay.
Meanwhile, Ginorga, also 72 years old, was arrested by the Butuan police on Feb. 5.
Ginorga and Tutor are known in Butuan City as leaders of progressive organizations. They were also slapped with trumped-up charges in relation to NPA offensives last year. Two of the charges filed in Surigao del Sur were later dismissed.
Pamalakaya said in a statement that Regala is involved in local campaigns, including the protection of municipal waters against illegal fishing and other destructive projects.
Gabriela Women’s Party, meanwhile, said Tutor has been working with the group in “pushing for pro-women and pro-poor legislation that will benefit Caraga, one of the poorest regions in the country.”
“Gina, along with the other community organizers arrested, are clearly not terrorists. This cruel act of arresting progressive community organizers demonstrates the perils of the Anti-Terror Law against unarmed civilians who are merely voicing out their legitimate concerns amid the crises we are facing,” the group said in a statement.
This is another case of harrasment to community health workers. I have worked with Manang Vilma for several years and her dedication to uplifting people’s health is genuine. The government should instead be thanking Manang Vilma for her work , for her effort and commitment to public health. Yet, the government is doing exactly opposite. No wonder, ill health is still widespread in the countryside due to wrong government priorities and policies.
Another harrasment action of the goverment using old technique of absurdly charging people genuinely working for the good of the marginalized Filipinos. It is very ironic that community workers like Vilma Yecyec who has dedicated all her life to organizing communities and teaching health workers is now victimized by the goverment that has neglected it’s obligation to the people itnis supposed to serve. Manang Vilma and the thousand of others who are doing things the goverment should be doing to alleviate poverty and health inequality is now on the receiving end. When will the government learn that by harassing community workers, they actually deny the Filipino people of self-reliant, an act that they should be providing in the first place.