“The Filipino people have long been suffering from deprivation of basic social services like health services. I know that there is nothing wrong in what I am doing.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Like union organizers, indigenous peoples and children’s rights advocates, progressive health professionals also reported experiencing harassment and surveillance from suspected state forces.
The chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), Dr. Darby Santiago, received a death threat through a text message on June 27.
“Isang bala ka lang. Ingat ka Doc (It takes just one bullet to do you in. Be careful, Doc),” said the message.
Some HEAD staff also received a text message on June 29, which said, to the effect: “So, that’s why Doc is not around,” pertaining to Santiago’s out-of-town trips as a consultant of a provincial hospital. However, on that day, he was at the protest of health groups at the Department of Health main office in Manila.
“Apparently they know my whereabouts,” he said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
Santiago said he regularly goes to provinces because of lack of retina surgeon in certain regions.
Some staff of HEAD also reported receiving similar text messages, such as: “Nahuli na ang kasama mo. You’re next” (Your companions have gone ahead, you’re next), and “Nasa malapit lang kami. Alam naming office niyo (We’re just around, we know where your office is).”
The last threat message was received on June 29.
Santiago has been an ophthalmologist for 13 years. He has also participated in campaigns and mass actions that criticize inefficient government health services and skewed health policies, as well as corruption issues, like the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
Santiago, who said this was the first time he received a death threat, brushed off the messages, saying that there are more Filipinos who live in fear every day. If the senders of the threats think that they can stop him from his advocacies, they are mistaken, he said.
“The Filipino people have long been suffering from deprivation of basic social services like health services. I know that there is nothing wrong in what I am doing,” he told Bulatlat.com.
Santiago is also a convenor of the Network Opposed to Privatization of public hospitals (NOP) and Rx Aquino Resign Now Movement. He is also a member of the Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology and Vitreo-Retinal Society of the Philippines.