On June 25, 2015, Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) joins the Council for Health and Development (CHD) in a press conference at the Max Restaurant, Quezon Avenue, Quezon City to condemn the brutal murder, by suspected state elements, of Barangay Health Worker (BHW) Rosalie “Saling” Calago and her husband Barangay Kagawad and community leader Endric “Bayoto” Calago last May 24, 2015 at Sitio Bantayan, Barangay Tacpao, Guihulngan, Negros Oriental.
According to Dr. Magdalena Barcelon of CHD, “The couple was strafed by bullets, and their bodies scorched inside their home at around 10:00 PM by suspected elements of the 11th Infantry Battalion based in Brgy. Mckinley, Guihulngan City. This is the latest in a series of brazen attacks against health workers involving the AFP and a testament to its long history of human rights violations.”
Aside from being a BHW, Saling, 45 years old, is also a Barangay Nutrition Scholar, a barefoot reporter of local radio programs Kaling Kag Tugda and Pugasan in Negros and Cebu, and a supporter of Community Health Workers (CHWs) in their locality. Bayoto, 47, is a Barangay Kagawad (village official) and Vice-Chairperson of Kaugmaon-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas. The couple are also members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Dr. Edelina dela Paz of HAHR explains that, “Health professionals, health workers, and health advocates such as the Calago couple dedicate their whole time and effort in order to serve the masses, especially in our country where adequate health services are inaccessible to the poor and the far-flung areas. This is why it is unacceptable that military elements continue to commit such heinous crimes against healthcare providers yet they remain unpunished. The government refuses to neither condemn nor investigate human rights abuses committed by the AFP.”
HAHR has tallied several cases of violations committed by the AFP and its paramilitary forces. In Manila, health advocates are accused of being armed, and portrayed by the police as ‘enemies of the state’. In Samar, a 70-personnel medical mission team for Typhoon Yolanda survivors was repeatedly shadowed by military forces which scared-away the civilians from availing the services. At least 50 community health professionals and workers were subjected to harassment, threats, illegal arrests, or filed trumped-up charges in Baguio, Cabanatuan, Cebu, Bukidnon, and Zamboanga. In Negros, Misamis Oriental, Davao, and CARAGA, frustrated murders and extrajudicial killings, at least 6 cases, were committed since 2006 against CHWs who simply stood-up for their rights, but neither suspect nor perpetrator has been prosecuted.
In the light of the incident on the Calago couple, HAHR and CHD challenge the Department of Health (DOH) and the Aquino administration to conduct an impartial, thorough, and speedy investigation so that justice may be served and the people behind the crime will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
Likewise, HAHR and CHD challenge the DOH and the Aquino administration to protect the rights of its people including the health workers.
“Under fire, we, health workers pledge to strengthen our commitment to serving the masses, and fortify the struggle to achieve just and lasting peace in pursuit of the people’s health and human rights. Hopefully, all of these will redound to achieving justice and end the culture of impunity in the Philippines”, concluded Dr. Barcelon.###