Groups denounce arrest of responding health workers in Kidapawan dispersal

“We deplore the culture of impunity perpetuated by the Aquino administration where even the provision of health services is treated as a criminal act.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Health workers strongly denounced the detention and filing of trumped-up charges against the health workers and volunteers who responded to give medical aid to wounded protesters in the bloody dispersal in Kidapawan City on April 1.

According to human rights group Karapatan, two parish health volunteers named Allie Ray and Juanito Gomez were arrested and detained by the police and were branded “New People’s Army doctors.” The group which just concluded a fact-finding mission in Kidapawan last week said the two were called to help the farmers wounded after the violent dispersal. They were accosted by the police on their way to United Methodist Church, searched their bag only to find medicines.

The health volunteers were charged with direct assault.

Two other health workers of the Fr. Fausto Tentorio Foundation were also detained, but released upon posting bail.

In a statement, the Alliance of Health Workers, the broadest alliance of health workers in the country, said the Aquino government is responsible for the “blatant violation of human rights against community health workers who are just doing their jobs to provide health services to farmers who are victims of hunger and state terrorism.”

“We deplore the culture of impunity perpetuated by the Aquino administration where even the provision of health services is treated as a criminal act. Not even in times of conflict or war is this allowed. This event only proves that an undeclared martial law is in effect in Kidapawan,” the group said.

Registered nurse Eleanor Nolasco, convenor of the Filipino Nurses United (FNU), said the harassment of the health workers and volunteers who were on a mercy mission to help the injured farmers exposed the “police’s ignorance and utter disrespect for the rights of the nurse and health worker to fulfill their task as first responders in that emergency situation.” It also violates the patient’s right to immediate medical relief, Nolasco added.

The FNU expressed sympathy to the drought-stricken farmers who, they said, were given bullets instead of food by what they called “callous and insensitive local authorities.”

The AHW, meanwhile, lambasted the Aquino government’s systematic criminalization and harassment of community health workers. “It brings to mind the Calago couple in Negros. The leaders of the community-based health program in their community who were murdered by state security forces.”

The FNU lauded the health workers who courageously responded to aid the aggrieved and injured in the bloody dispersal. “By being at the scene and asserting their right to perform their sworn duty, our fellow nurses best exemplified the spirit and brand of service of a Florence Nightingale,” Nolasco said.

Nolasco said the arrested nurses just showed what Article V, Section 13-2 of the Nursing Code of Ethics really means, “The establishment of linkages with the public in promoting local, national, and international efforts to meet health and social needs of the people as a contributing member of society is a noble concern of a registered nurse.”

They called for an end in all forms of harassment to all nurses and health workers in the Philippines.

The AHW also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the arrested health workers, as well as all the detained farmers. They also demanded justice for the victims of the bloody dispersal.

“We enjoin all nurses, health professionals and health workers union all over the country to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Kidapawan in all capacities and forms,” the group said. ()

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