Health Workers Under Fire!

Health workers, professionals, employees and students belonging to various health organizations in the Philippines decried the administration of President Aquino for the worsening human rights situation in the country. In a conference to commemorate International Human Rights Day, they declared that human rights remain as an urgent issue in the Philippines.

"Human rights remain as an urgent issue in the Philippines"

This is the declaration of health workers, professionals, employees and students who attended the conference of health sector and advocates on human rights and peace to commemorate the International Human Rights Day.


The conference titled: Health Workers under Fire! which gathered close to two hundred participants was aimed at analyzing the social, economic and political context of the worsening violations of human rights in the country; identifying human rights issues confronting the health sector; developing awareness of the members of the health sector to defend and uphold human rights and drawing up a campaign plan for human rights and peace based on justice in the Philippines. TWHA partner, The Council for Health and Development, coorganized the conference with Health Alliance for Democracy and Health Alliance for Human Rights.


They asserted that President Aquino's four years in power is marked by human rights violations committed against those opposed to anti-people policies such as in mining, the privatization of public utilities and government hospitals and corruption in the government. In the report of the human rights group Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of the People's Rights), from 2010 up to the present, there are already 204 victims of extrajudicial killings, 21 victims of enforced disappearances, 99 victims of torture, 39,000 victims of forced evacuations, 65,712 victims of harassment and 141,490 victims of using schools, medical and religious places for military purpose.


They deplored the climate of impunity which persists under the administration of President Aquino as indicated by the promotion of military officers facing human rights charges, tedious and cumbersome judicial process, ineffective legal remedies, vilification of human rights activists and development workers and the implementation of the counter-insurgency program called Oplan Bayanihan which is blamed for the upsurge in human rights abuses particularly extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.


Health workers, in particular, have not been spared of human rights violations. They cited the case of the 43 health workers who were arrested in 2010 for trumped up charges (fabricated charges), military harassment of community health workers and the recent harassment of relief and medical teams during the conduct of health services for Haiyan victims in Northern Samar.


To substantiate cases of human rights violations against health workers, Vilma Yecyec, 66, a community health worker in Mindanao since the 1980's, related the continued harassment she experienced from the military during the course of her work. She had been charged with murder and frustrated murder in connection with the ambush of NPA (New People's Army) guerillas against government soldiers in 2012. The military, she said, does not like what CBHP is doing in the communities, which is the dissemination of alternative and people-based health care and organizing and mobilizing the people to fight for their right to health which the government continues to violate through its negligence.


Sadly, many human rights abuses against community health workers, especially in the rural and militarized areas, go undocumented because they are getting used to it as facing military harassment has become part of their "daily routine".


Government health employees have persistently been deprived of their right for collective negotiation agreement. According to Alliance of Health Workers, union officers and members who are active in their fight for their right have received different types of harassments such as reassignment to posts unrelated to their job descriptions, fabricated charges filed by management, no promotion and non-implementation of various benefits.


At the end of the conference, they drew up a course of action that would take the government to task for the increasing human rights violations through mass actions, campaigns and lobbying. They also called on the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front to resume the long-stalled peace talks.


Last December 10, on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, they joined several other sectors in a protest action in Manila to denounce the impunity and the continuing human rights violations under the Aquino government.#