Doctors of the People
Donning white blazers,
many doctors stay in air-conditioned clinics serving well-off patients.
Some work abroad for higher financial rewards. There are even those who
trade their blazers for nurse’s uniforms just to be able to seek
employment abroad and bring their families along with them.
But there are also
doctors who work in understaffed public hospitals and make do with
whatever benefits provided by government. There are doctors who walk
through mountains to be able to reach and provide medical services to
people in remote areas who have been abandoned by the government. Without
the sanitized environment of hospitals and proper equipment; with no
nurses and attendants to assist them; they try the best they can to treat
patients and educate the people in primary health care. These doctors
live a life away from the comforts of the city; make do with a modest
allowance; and sometimes even risk their lives.
BY AUBREY MAKILAN
Dr. Chandu Claver: ‘Do
Right by the People’
“Chandu” Claver is a surgeon by training and a family physician by
Since completing his
post-graduate training in 1984, he has worked continuously in the areas of
Kalinga and Apayao.
These two provinces
had been heavily militarized, he said, as early as during the time he
entered these areas. At present, it is the 501st Infantry
Brigade that covers these areas, purportedly due to the “heavy
concentration” of guerilla forces.
military operations in the last 22 years, said Chandu, citing a ranking
Army brigade officer as source, “have brought (guerrilla forces) down to
an insignificant number of 13 insurgents.”
At present, he said
that the concentration of military forces in these areas could be
attributed to securing the area in support of the government’s move to
open up the area to foreign mining corporations.
In this militarized
situation Chandu chose to practice his profession in a small hospital.
“I quickly realized
that waiting for the patients to come was palliative and had no impact on
the morbidity rate,” said Chandu who then decided to go to remote barrios.
While in the
communities, he practiced preventive medicine, also known as community
medicine. He also helped set up various community-based health programs (CBHPs)
in these areas.
But rural health work
and organizing barrio programs had to be done even in the midst of a war,
“I suddenly came face
to face with civilian deaths and injuries, as well as evacuation of whole
barangays, and its health consequences,” he recalled.
The defender, the
He was also involved
in medical relief work in Kalinga ang Apayao that led him to engage in
human rights investigation and advocacy.
In this work, he and
his staff had occasional “war encounters.”
In several instances,
they also experienced physical threats while passing through military
checkpoints. Several of their health programs were also affected from 1992
to 1994 due to massive military operations. But Chandu said that though
health work in these areas slowed down, advocacy and organizing for health
“Our team was
machine-gunned off the bancas (small boats) in Marag (Apayao),” he
said adding another incident where a staff member was detained for half a
day in Cagayan. Their team was also subjected to house arrest and
intimidation in Balbalan, Kalinga, he said.
Aside from the
threats, two of their staff members were killed in separate incidents.
Last June, one of their foremost organizers, Rafael “Markus” Bangit was
But he was never
exempted from the pattern of threats.
On July 31, Chandu
sustained three gunshot wounds when two armed men sprayed bullets at his
SUV. His wife Alyce who sustained 26 gunshot wounds died while their
seven-year old daughter Cassandra only obtained a head scratch.
Though he survived,
Chandu was left with a shattered left arm and abdominal injuries.
The harsh condition
they continue to experience however leads to more people’s involvement not
only in health issues but in broader social issues as well, he said.
Chandu admitted the
incident “shattered” and turned his life “upside down” but they “have
gradually learned to cope.”
“Our most useful
crutches were our strong desire to seek justice for the death of Alyce,
and our knowledge that the cause we are fighting for is right and just,”
Chandu accused the
government and the military of masterminding the attack. “We believe that
the killers of my wife are death squads brought here by the military and
the Arroyo regime to try to quell the insurgency,” he said in his previous
“Do right by the
Someone has asked him
this question: “Looking back, how do you now look at your past work,
knowing fully well that it had led to the death of your wife?”
illustrates a man who has whole-heartedly lived up to his principles.
He said with no
regrets, “Everyone does what he has to do. Some unexpected tragedy might
befall us but these are not pre-determined.”
When faced by
personal social dilemmas, he would think of this worthwhile saying, “Do
right by the people.”
“Follow it, and you
will never be wrong,” he said. Bulatlat
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© 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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