Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VI, No. 43      Dec. 3 - 9, 2006      Quezon City, Philippines








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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.



Dr. Chandu Claver: ‘Do Right by the People’

Dr. Constancio “Chandu” Claver is a surgeon by training and a family physician by practice.

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.

But continuous 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, he said.

“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 victim

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 continued.

“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 killed.

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,” he said.

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 statement.

“Do right by the people”

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?”

His answer 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



© 2006 Bulatlat  Alipato Media Center

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