By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Frontliners led by the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) filed charges against the anti-insurgency task force’s spokesperson Lorraine Badoy before the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday, April 7, World Health Day.
The group, together with union leaders from different government hospitals, filed their complaint on the same day when Badoy tagged the AHW along with other progressive groups as a “creation of the CPP-NPA-NDF” to infiltrate the government.
Speaking to members of the press, Antonio La Viña, who serves as counsel for the health workers, said they are filing the complaint against Badoy to make her stop her red-tagging activities.
“As we can see, all those who are doing good things are being red-tagged, even Vice President Leni Robredo and her supporters,” La Viña said in Filipino, adding that red-tagging should be stopped.
“USec. Badoy insulted and demeaned our dignity as leaders and damaged the good reputation of our organization,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW national president, adding, “As we fight the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been at the forefront in consistently and wholeheartedly serving the Filipino people as we also fight for our safety, protection and welfare.”
After red-tagging AHW, Mendoza said that last April 12, 2021 Badoy accused him and Benjamin Santos Jr., AHW’s secretary general as operatives and cadres of the CPP-NPA-NDF.
In a position paper, Filipino Nurses United said that some of their colleagues experienced threat, harassment and vilification from state forces.
“There have been instances when hospital workers engaged in union activities were stalked in their workplaces and/or red-tagged and caricatured in social media to denigrate their persons and even portray them as enemies of the state,” the group said.
In a statement, Santos asserted that vilifying their organization is putting their lives in imminent danger, citing cases of leaders of legal organizations who, after being red-tagged, were arrested due to trumped-up charges or are even killed.
In December 2020, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan and her husband were killed in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. This after her name was included in a hitl ist tagging her as JB Regalado, spokesperson of the New People’s Army in Central Negros. However, Sancelan was working as city health officer and head of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) in the province.
Community health workers and human rights defender Zara Alvarez was also killed in Bacolod City. She was also relentlessly red-tagged by the state forces.
Recently, Dr. Natividad Castro who was also red-tagged and arrested, but fortunately was released from prison after the court dismissed the charges against her.
Another health worker, 72-year old Vilma Yecyec, remains in prison after authorities arrested her last February of this year. She is accused of being a member of the NPA.
FNU said that red-tagging by the State is a “blatant violation of one’s right to speak up about issues and concerns affecting our role as health care providers.”
“When we raise our grievances about work life conditions, for instance, and assert our rights to fair wages and humane work conditions, we are justly exercising our fundamental rights to free speech as an organization. But an extreme response by some state forces is to stifle the exercise of legitimate rights, sow fear by red-tagging, hurl trumped-up charges to exact arrest and worse, as has happened, even physically eliminate the targets,” the group said.
Meanwhile, the AHW assert the legality of their organization which, for the past four decades, has championed the rights not only of health workers but also of the people’s right to health.
The group is also behind the legislation of significant laws such as Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers that ensures the benefits and well-being of government health workers. It also significantly contributed to the proclamation of May 7 as “National Health Workers Day” under Republic Act 10069.
“AHW also played a major role in fighting for salary increase and just benefits of both public and private health workers and made various concerted efforts to seek and improve the living and working conditions of public and private health workers,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said the AHW was also established in accordance with Executive Order No. 180, s.1987, otherwise known as the Public Sector Unionism. It is also registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and its member organizations are registered and accredited by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
“For the longest time, the so-called ‘modern-day heroes’ have been fully committed to render service to our country, even risking their lives in battling the deadly virus. Yet, they remain overworked and underpaid while the promised COVID-19 benefits were not equally and fully provided to them,” said Mendoza.
“Instead of addressing and supporting our just call for safety, protection, rights and welfare, Usec. Badoy managed to red-tag us. This is grave misconduct and conduct unbecoming of a government official and as a medical doctor. She has no sympathy with us as her colleagues in the health profession,” Mendoza added.
Santos said filing a case against red-taggers is one way of protecting their loved ones and their organization.
“Thus, we earnestly urge the Office of the Ombudsman to issue an immediate preventive suspension and ultimately dismiss USec. Badoy from the service, cancel her civil service eligibility and permanently disqualify her to enter any government service,” Santos said.
Prior to this filing by AHW, several groups and individuals have already filed complaints against Badoy at the Office of the Ombudsman after her relentless red-tagging of Robredo, her supporters and groups who are supporting her candidacy.