Friday, February 26, 2010

Doctors' Statement on Medical Findings on the 43 Health Workers

Julie P. Caguiat, MD
We, volunteer medical doctors, strongly condemn the continuing psychological torture inflicted upon the 43 health workers illegally detained by the Armed Forces of the Philippine at Camp Capinpin. We also deplore the military’s disrespect for the basic human rights of the detained health workers, including their right to medical services. 

Despite repeated requests from lawyers and family members, we have been denied entry by the camp authorities nine times. We were only allowed to see the detainees on February 11 (six days since their illegal arrest) and only upon the intervention by the Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights, and on February 24, when only one of the 3 physicians was allowed to enter. Under severely restricted conditions, the check-ups merely lasted for 10-15 minutes and under the scrutiny of 2-3 guards standing in close proximity, which made our patients feel uneasy. Such is the violation of their right to health and their right to privacy. 

After the medical check-ups, we still endorsed our patients and their particular medical needs to their custodians. However, to date, no medical intervention has been made accordingly.

According to reports from the families, our colleagues who are now our patients continue to suffer from various physical and mental conditions. Two of them asked their custodians for emergency medical help but no medical attention was provided.

Under Republic Act 7438 Sec. 2(f), Any person arrested or detained or under custodial investigation shall be allowed visits by or conferences with any member of his immediate family, or any medical doctor or priest or religious minister chosen by him or by any member of his immediate family or by his counsel... The person's "immediate family" shall include his or her spouse, fiancé or fiancée, parent or child, brother or sister, grandparent or grandchild, uncle or aunt, nephew or niece, and guardian or ward.”

These provisions, meant to recognize both the needs and the rights of the detained health workers, are being violated on a daily basis.

Hence, we demand that the rights of the 43 detained health workers be recognized. We demand an immediate end to torture.

Free the 43 health workers now!

Community Health Worker shot in Negros

Ronald Capitania, 24 years old, single, a habal habal (motorcycle) driver and a resident of Brgy. Manlocahoc, Sipalay City, Negros Occidental was shot  February 23, 6:45 am in Brgy Manlocahoc, Sipalay City, Negros Occidental.  He was one of the 30 Community Health Workers (CHW) who graduated in a 1 year ladderized health training of Community Based Health Program sponsored by Council for Health and Development (CHD) and Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP) on November 22, 2009. He is also the Public Information Officer of Camindangan Small Farmers Association (CASFA), a partner organization of NIHIP in southern Negros.

While on his way to Brgy Cambugiot, Sipalay to fetch a regular passenger, he noticed 2 bonnet-wearing men riding a motorcycle following him.  Sensing danger, he fled with his motorcycle but was shot thrice and hit on the shoulder and abdomen.  The gunmen continued to chase and shoot him.  Despite the pain, he still remembered the Basic Health Skills Training 1 given to him by volunteer nurses of NIHIP.  Hence, he applied pressure on his wound to minimize the bleeding.

Capitania is now confined at the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMMRH) in Bacolod City.  His colleagues suspect that the military is behind the shooting because their organization was active in the campaign calling for the withdrawal of the military detachment inside the barangay hall. 

Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor, one of the 43 health workers illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal together with NIHIP representative and Brgy. Capt Elijer Borris of Camindangan distributed diplomas for the graduates of the South CHW Association where Capitania served.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Still Detained... but Pressure Mounting! Your support is of great help!

We've had a reply from Ambassador Brillantes, which was not much more than a reassurance that the Philippine government will have to present their evidence to the trumped-up charges in court, but this can take months. In the mean time, we are still extremely concerned for the safety of our friends. 

Letters of concern and solidarity are still very important at this time, so please consider writing.

Here are some photos I received today from a protest on Negros Island. 


Friday, February 12, 2010

CHD to AFP: Educational attainment not a hindrance to learn health skills

Media Release
Reference: Dr. Eleanor A. Jara

February 13, 2010

CHD to AFP: Educational attainment not a hindrance to learn health skills

Health groups today slammed the military’s malicious statement regarding some of the health worker-trainees’ capacity to learn health skills with regard to their educational attainment. Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ 2nd Infantry Division said in an interview that the trainees’ profiles revealed that some of them reached only elementary and high school levels while only a very few were college levels and graduates. Thus, why give them health training?

“For 37 years, community-based health program practitioners have been training volunteers who would like to become Community Health Workers (CHWs) regardless of their educational attainment. We do not discriminate against a person’s educational background as long as he or she has the heart to serve other people in the villages. In fact, we have CHWs who are illiterate but are efficient and respected healers in their communities,” Dr. Eleanor A. Jara, Council for Health and Development’s Executive Director said.

In a country where 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor and where public health services lack or are inaccessible, Dr. Jara said that it is CHD’s and COMMED’s mandate to bring health into the people’s hands. “This means, our health professionals and health workers go out of their way to reach underserved communities and organize health committees and train Community Health Workers. That way, the people themselves can prevent and cure common illnesses and practice first-aid even with the absence of government services in their communities,” Dr. Jara explained.

She added that health skills should not be an exclusive property of a few who can afford to buy it -- it should be learned by as many people as possible as long as they have the passion to use that knowledge to serve their fellowmen especially the poor and the oppressed.

Tuition fee in Metro Manila medical schools ranges from P55,000 to P85,000 per semester.

“It is a shame that the AFP discriminates the capacity of our people to learn health skills just because they only reached elementary or high school levels. The AFP should be the ones ashamed of themselves for persecuting health workers that genuinely serve the people. If the Armed Forces is questioning and suspicious as to why we train these people without high educational attainment, the answer is there is not enough health workers and health services in the country and the blame is on the government’s incapacity and skewed priorities,” Dr. Jara ended.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Open Letter to Ambassador Brilliantes

February 8, 2010

Ambassador Brilliantes
130 Albert Street, Suite 606
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
K1P 5G4

Dear Ambassador Brillantes,

We are writing you to express our strong concern over the recent abduction of 43 health workers by the Philippine Army and Philippine National Police on the 6th of February in Rizal, Philippines. These workers were illegally abducted while attending a health training put on by the Council for Health and Development (CHD).

One of the abducted health workers, Dr. Merry Mia, is a personal friend, one of the hosts to me and my family when we spent seven months in the Philippines in 2008 as volunteer community health workers. Dr. Merry is a committed health professional who works with the poor and marginalized of Philippine society. The idea that Dr. Merry is involved in violent or criminal actions is absolutely ridiculous to anyone who knows her, as we do. She is committed to social justice and human rights and works with legal, popular movements of Philippine society.

As concerned Canadians we are watching the actions of the Philippine government very carefully. Please convey our concerns to the appropriate authorities in the Philippines. We look forward to hearing of the speedy release of Dr. Merry the other 42 health workers currently being illegally detained.


Ormond-Roberts Family

Martha Roberts, R.M.
Aiyanas Ormond
Sophia Roberts, age 13
Billy Grayer, age 8

URGENT ACTION by KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)

Health workers, including the wife of Karapatan Deputy Secretary General, illegally arrested in military raid in Rizal province, Philippines

Case: Violation of Domicile; Destruction of property; Abduction, Divestment of Property; Illegal Search and Seizure; Illegal Arrest; Illegal Detention; Torture; Threat, Harassment and Intimidation, Fear for Safety

Victim/s :
Abducted, Illegally Arrested and illegally detained(partial list)
1. Dr. Merry Mia, Health Education and Training Services coordinator for Council for Health and Development (CHD), wife of Mr. Roneo Clamor (KARAPATAN Deputy Secretary General)
2. Dr. Alexis Montes
3. Gary Liberal, Registered Nurse (Jose Reyes Medical Memorial Center)
4. Teresa Quinawayan, Midwife
5. Lydia Obera, community health worker
6. Reynaldo Macabenta, community health worker
7. Angela Doloricon, community health worker
8. Delia Ocasia, community health worker
9. Jane Balleta, community health worker
10. Janice Javier, community health worker
11. Franco Remoroso, community health worker
12. Ailene Monasteryo, community health worker
13. Pearl Irene Martinez, community health worker
14. Elen Carandang, community health worker
15. Dany Panero, community health worker
16. Rayom Among, community health worker
17. Emily Marquez, community health worker
18. Emelia Marquez, community health worker
19. Glenda Murillo, community health worker
20. Ace Millena, community health worker
21. Ely Castillo, community health worker
22. Lalyn Saligumba, community health worker
23. Jovy Ortiz, community health worker
24. Samsung Castillo, community health worker
25. Mark Estrellado, community health worker
26. Miann Oseo, community health worker
27. Selvia Pajanosta, community health worker
28. Lolibeth Donasco, community health worker
29. Jenelyn Pizaro, community health worker
30. Ramon de la Cruz, community health worker
31. Jacqueline Gonzales, community health worker
32. Maria Elena Serato, community health worker
33. Mercy Castro, community health worker
34. Lea de Luna, community health worker
35. Judilyn Oliveros, community health worker
36. Valentino Paulino, community health worker
37. Yolanda Yaun, community health worker
38. Edwin Dematera, community health worker
39. Sherilyn Riocasa Tawagon, community health worker
40. Gerry Sustinto, community health worker
41. Jenmark Barrientos, community health worker
42. Mark Escartin, community health worker

Place of Incident: Residential compound of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal,
Morong, Rizal

Date of Incident: 06 February 2010

Alleged Perpetrator(s): Joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA), and Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) headed by Colonel Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army based in Tanay, Rizal and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong of the Rizal PNP.

Account of the Incident: On February 1, around 40 medical practitioners and health workers participated in a one week First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD) at Dr. Melecia Velmonte’s Farm, a conference and training facility in Morong, Rizal.

Dr. Velmonte is a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a consultant at the Philippine General Hospital. Her farm is a regular venue of health trainings, with participants coming from both the communities and the academe.

At around 6:15 am on February 6, 2010, around 300 heavily armed elements of the military and police forced their way into the farm of Dr. Melecia Velmonte in Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. At gunpoint, the military forced the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.

When Dr. Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military. All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The victims were also questioned and photographed by the military, while another took a video recording of the interrogation. The male victims were then blindfolded with old shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape. All of the personal belongings of the victims were also taken by the military.

When the participants were already handcuffed, it was only then that Police Superintendent Marion P. Balonglong showed Bob a search warrant for a certain Mario Condes of Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal, charged with illegal possession of firearms. The search warrant dated February 5, 2010 and issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court, did not indicate the exact address of the Velmonte compound.

Bob asserted that the warrant did not specify their address, and that Mario Condes, who is subject of the warrant, is not even the owner of the house, but he was ignored by the authorities.

Outside the compound, were eight (8) vehicles. Along with the four (4) 6 x 6 military trucks were two (2) Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), a KIA Pride car, and an ambulance. Some of the vehicles had no plate numbers while the rest of the license plates were either covered, or smeared with mud.

The male health workers were loaded into the military trucks while female health workers were forced into the cars and vans. They were brought to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army.

The military declared that the victims were members of the New People’s Army because of the explosives allegedly found inside the compound. However, according to witnesses, the military conducted the search of the compound’s premises only after all of the victims, as well as the residents, were already outside the buildings. Witnesses also said that the military have brought in with them plastic bags with the GMA Kapuso logo printed on it.

Allegedly found were C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, 3 grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow); beside the grenade were some improvised landmines. However, Bob said that they were not issued a receipt of the inventory of the said firearms and explosives.

The military and police arresting team were led by Col. Aurelio Baladad and Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong.

The illegal search of the Velmonte compound ended at past 9:00 in the morning of Saturday, February 6, 2010.

Prior to the incident, one of the participants related that on February 4, the grassy portion outside of the Velmonte compound caught fire at around 8:00 in the evening. Everyone panicked and went out of their sleeping quarters fearing the fire will cross over to the compound. Fortunately it did not and the fire died on its own.

On February 5, at around 11:00 pm, the dog tied near the male sleeping quarters and the geese nearby made a raucous. Then at around 12 midnight, the chickens in a coop nearby were also disturbed and cackled furiously. One of the male participants went out twice to check but did not see anybody.

In the afternoon of the February 6, Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor, husband of Dr. Merry Mia, Olive Bernardo, Karapatan Services Head, along with Karapatan counsel, Atty. Ephraim Cortez, Dr. Geneve Rivera and Dr. Edelina De La Paz, chairperson of Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR), went to Camp Capinpin to inquire about the victims. They were not allowed to enter the camp premises.

On February 7, families and relatives of the illegally arrested went to Camp Capinpin to try to visit and see the conditions of the victims. They waited at the gate and held a short program but the 2nd Infantry Division played very loud music trying to drown the speeches of the family members and their supporters. Two groups of fierce-looking dispersal units (with firearms and shields) were dispatched and blocked the gate of the camp. Later, Mr. Clamor and Dr. Caguiat were allowed to enter the camp premises but once again were not allowed to see the victims because allegedly they will be presented for inquest. They waited until very late in the afternoon no inquest took place.

On February 8, the team remained in Camp Capinpin. It was heard over the radio that the 2nd IDPA issued a statement that an inquest took place at past 9:00 in the evening of the previous day. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) issued a statement condemning the act of the arresting team. A team was dispatched by the CHR to Camp Capinpin. It was allowed to enter camp and Chairperson Leila De Lima was to follow later.

Suddenly, the 2nd IDPA provided a tent, chairs, breads and juices for the people at the gate. The loud music was turned off.

When Chairperson De Lima arrived, the relatives requested her to intercede to allow them to see the victims. She agreed. However, only Chairperson De Lima with Dr. Rivera and two relatives were allowed to enter the camp. The other victims were denied entrance despite the agreement that all the relatives would be allowed to.

At around 3:00 pm, Chairperson De Lima went out of the camp and briefed the waiting families and relatives. She told the soldiers to allow the relatives to see their loved ones. They were finally allowed to enter. They entered by batches of seven. There were three batches.

They were only allowed 30 minutes each to speak to their loved ones. They could not freely talk because they were closely guarded by soldiers. But despite this, the horrors of what the victims suffered under their captors were revealed. It was learned that they were blindfolded and their hands bound behind with a plastic cuff since they were arrested until a few hours before Chairperson De Lima arrived. They slept sitting down but when the CHR team arrived, they were already placed in quarters with beds. All females were put together in one big room while the males were either given their own room or sharing a room with another with toilets. Their meals were fed to them and their guards pull down their underwears for them everytime they go to the comfort rooms. The female guards even washed the private parts of women detainee. They were deprived of sleep because they were repeatedly interrogated. Others related that the interrogation was done in unholy hours with the clear intention to deprive them of sleep.

Others related that they were physically tortured.

Dr. Alexis Montes complained to his son that his shoulders are sore from being pulled back due to the prolonged binding of his hands behind his back. He also told his son that during interrogation, he was told that he was standing at the edge of a ravine and everytime he answered a question, he was poked with a pair of stick forcing him backward. He also said that he was electrocuted. He did not lose
consciousness but was paralyzed for a time.

Ely Castillo softly whispered to his sister to avoid being overheard by the soldier accompanying her that he was tortured. He was not able to elaborate because of the presence of the soldier.

Dr. Merry Mia related to her husband that she was alternately interrogated by “kind” and harsh men. The “kind” interrogators only asked about personal details, the harsh ones threatened her by saying “You know what we are capable of doing to you and your family.” “We will soon know who your husband is.” She was also asked over and over again where she lives, where she studied, and what her task was in the training, etc. There was an instance that three men interrogated her simultaneously. Threatening to harm her family. One of whom told her, “We’re not done with you yet. I will come back for you and will not let you sleep tonight.” Although she was not physically tortured, she was worried that the others were hurt because she heard screams of both men and women in pain.

Dr. Rivera saw Dr. Mia first before her husband. Dr. Rivera told the team that she found Dr. Mia in a fetal position. When she softly called her name, she raised her eyes but it took her a long time to recognize the very familiar face of her friend.

Recommended Action:

Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:
1. The immediate release of the health workers who are tortured, illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.
2. The government to ensure the safety of the victims and that they are not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.
3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal.
4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

You may send your communications

H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
JP Laurel St., San
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
(+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: /

Sec. Annabelle T. Abaya
Presidential Adviser on the Peace
Office of the Presidential
Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

Norberto Gonzales
Secretary, Department of National
Room 301 DND
Building, Camp Emilio
E. de
los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
911-9281 / 911-0488
911 6213

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102

Please send us a copy of your
email/mail/fax to the above-named government officials, to our address below.

URGENT ACTION Prepared by:

KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
National Office
2/F Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin
cor Matatag Sts., Brgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City
Voice/Fax: (+632) 435 4146

CHD to AFP and PNP -- release abducted doctors, nurses, and Community Health Workers in Tanay, Rizal


CHD to AFP and PNP -- release abducted doctors, nurses, and Community Health Workers in Tanay, Rizal

As thousands of Filipino health professionals are driven away from the country because of lack of enough opportunities, the government terrorizes the very few who chose to stay and serve their fellow citizens, Council for Health and Development revealed in a press conference held in Quezon City.

In a statement, Eleanor A. Jara, medical doctor and Executive Director of Council for Health and Development said that at 6:15 am yesterday, February 6, 2010, medical doctors, nurses, and Community Health Workers (CHWs) were frisked, blindfolded and forcibly taken by combined heavily armed elements of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the Rizal Philippine National Police. The troop numbered to about 300, reports said.

Council for Health and Development is the National Secretariat of more than 50 community-based health programs in the entire Philippines.

"The raiding team showed a bogus search warrant and herded our doctors, nurses, and Community Health Workers conducting health skills training-seminar in the house of Dr. Melecia Velmonte," Jara said.

"CHD denies the claim of Col. Aurelio Baladad of the Philippine Army's 202nd Infantry Brigade to the media that the participants were undergoing a bomb-making training. We further condemn the AFP and PNP’s action of planting evidences such as guns and ammunitions in the training venue. In truth, the participants were holding a first responders’ health skills training-seminar aimed to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and skills of health professionals and Community Health Workers to develop their capacities in providing health care services to the poorest of the poor,” Jara added.

Dr. Julie Caguiat of the Community Medicine Foundation further explained that such brazen act was clearly a state effort to terrorize health professionals and health workers that work among the people.

Dr. Jara lamented that the abducted health professionals and CHWs are among those that serve far-flung villages where government personnel and services are lacking or are nonexistent. Because of their passion and dedication to serve their fellow Filipinos, these health professionals and CHWs brave difficult work environments and meager salaries just so they could be of service where they are most needed, Jara added.

"Instead of supporting and lauding their efforts and sacrifices, what does Mrs. Arroyo's government do? Her military and police abduct these health professionals and CHWs and violate their rights. In effect, the delivery of health services in the poorest communities is derailed," Jara said.

The ratio of doctor to patient in the Philippines is pegged by the Department of Health at 1:30,000.

As of press time, the military has denied the relatives and co-workers of the victims to see or speak to them.

"The military has done it again, this condemnable incident adds up to the long list of human rights violation against health workers and community-based health practitioners.

We call on all health professional organizations, entire Filipino people, and the international community to denounce state terrorism in the strongest possible terms. We enjoin our colleagues in the health profession as well as the entire Filipino nation to stand united and demand for the release of the abducted health personnel," Jara concluded.