MANILA, April 7, 2011—Women’s rights group, Tanggol Bayi (Women Defend!), assailed the alleged harassments by government forces against three community health workers in Baguio City.
In a statement, Cristina “Tinay” Palabay, Tanggol Bayi’s convener says that Milgaros Ao-wat, Germelina Dacanay and Rosalinda Suyam, all working for Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE), an NGO that has been working to build community-based health programs since 1981; have been receiving death threats via text messaging and that there were “suspicious” men who were following them, wherever they go.
“Tanggol Bayi is alarmed at these latest forms of harassment directed at the three women. We are one with CHESTCORE in denouncing these blatant violations of the health workers’ civil and political rights, and call for the termination of Oplan Bayanihan, under which the agents of the military and the state function to threaten, harass, and “neutralize” progressive organizations and individuals,” said Palabay.
Palabay fears that the three would have the same fate as that of Morong 43, who were arrested due to suspicion of being rebels, although their cases were dismissed by the Department of Justice, as per order by President Benigno C. Aquino III himself, due to lack of evidence. They were released from Philippine National Police (PNP) custody last December 17, 2010.
Last April 5, six of the Morong 43, namely Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Dr. Alexis Montes, nurse Gary Liberal, Ma. Teresa Quinawayan, Reynaldo Macabenta and Mercy Castro had officially filed a criminal case against former president and now Pampanga Rep. Ma. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for their arrest.
“Our community health workers could just as easily have gone abroad to seek greener pastures because of the lack of government subsidy for health services and decent compensation for health workers, but they instead have chosen to serve our fellow Filipinos in the communities. They travel to far-flung areas, putting aside personal safety and comfort, in order to bring much-needed medical and training services to the poorest regions of the country with the goal of empowering them and alleviating their poverty. And yet these modern-day heroes suffer injustices at the hands of the military,” Palabay said.
Palabay called on the Filipino human rights community and those who have been served by CHESTCORE not to allow arbitrary arrest of the three health workers.
“Let us not allow this to happen again to our CHESTCORE health workers. Let us not allow injustice and impunity to prevail,” said Palabay.