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17/06

Gabriela and CHD condemn killing of member/health worker

The murder of Rosalie adds up to the increasing and intensifying attacks against health workers who are critical of government programs and policies and choose to serve the poor and the marginalized population

TWHA partners Gabriela and the Council for Health and Development (CHD) condemned the brutal killing and burning of a health worker and Gabriela member and her husband allegedly by government soldiers last May 24 in the province of Negros Oriental.

Rosalie Calago, a member of Gabriela Negros Oriental Chapter, was working as a barangay health worker. She was also a member of International Committee of the Red Cross and a "barefoot reporter" of various local radio programs in the province. Her husband, Endric, was the vice chairperson of Kaugmaon, a local peasant organization affiliated with the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, a national peasant organization struggling for a genuine agrarian reform in the Philippines. Both were actively involved in relief and rehabilitation programs for victims and survivors of a 6.9 magnitude earthquake that hit the province in 2012.

According to a witness account, at around 10 in the evening, Rosalie was heard shouting, "Help us, the Army is here!" After a few minutes, bursts of gunshots were heard and then the house was set on fire.

Rosalie's body was found just outside the kitchen door with a bullet wound on her chest and totally burned while Edric's was found near the balcony with several gunshot wounds.  

In a press statement, CHD said that Rosalie actively supported the Franciscan Mountain Clinic, a community-managed program run by CBHP (Community-based Health Program) -trained community health workers in her capacity as a barangay health worker.  She believed in empowering communities in laying down the foundation of people-managed alternative health care system at the community level, it added.

The murder of Rosalie adds up to the increasing and intensifying attacks against health workers who are critical of government programs and policies and choose to serve the poor and the marginalized population. “The attack against health workers is an affront to the people’s right to health. The military kill or harass health workers and deprive thousands of people in poor and neglected communities with important health care services,” said Dr. Magdalena Barcelon, chairperson of the Council for Health and Development’s (CHD) Board of Trustees. CHD is the national organization of 64 CBHPs in the Philippines.

Human rights organizations Asian Legal Resource Center and Karapatan in a joint statement submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council emphasized that extrajudicial killing and other human rights violations in the Philippines continue without respite due to counter insurgency programs, military listings of human rights and political activists as “target persons,” and targeted prosecutions of activists based on ready-to-testify witnesses under military custody and evidence of questionable merit.  

They said that the Calago couple had suffered various types of human rights violations since 2013 when soldiers allegedly opened fire on their house. Last year, the couple and other members of Kaugmaon were charged with fabricated cases of robbery, qualified trespassing and grave coercion but were later dismissed by the Office of the Prosecutor.

Only last March, Edric's name was included in the list of peasant leaders being suspected as communist rebels . The list was printed on leaflets allegedly distributed by the military to the public as part of its anti-insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan.

The ALRC and Karapatan urged the Council to draw the government’s attention to the withdrawal of Oplan Bayanihan and to implement the recommendations of Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial killings Prof. Philip Alston for the military to cease labeling and targeting human rights defenders as communist rebels.

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