Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Complete turnaround for health in Duterte’s second SONA

In his second State of the Nation's Address, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte reiterated his administration’s dependence on the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, or PhilHealth. He said that PhilHealth coverage will be expanded and that the No Balance Billing policy will be strengthened.

For Health Alliance for Democracy, such statements are a complete reversal of his earlier stance against PhilHealth.

"More than a year after being elected into office, President Duterte has completely backtracked on PhilHealth and now continues with the Department of Health's band-aid solutions to age-old public health problems," said Dr. Darby Santiago, HEAD Chairperson. "He has forgotten that during the 2016 presidential debates, he was the only candidate to criticize PhilHealth, for which he was applauded and supported by many who wanted to see real changes in health care."

Protesters gather at Batasan ave. to ask President Duterte what has become of his
promised change on the president's second State of the Nation Address, July 24, 2017.
At that time, he was already convinced of the general ineffectiveness of PhilHealth that despite its ballooning budget and supposed coverage of the poor, patients still shouldered more than half the cost of their hospitalization.

"But now, Duterte is singing a different tune," Dr. Santiago said.

An effigy by the health sector, depicting Duterte and his health agenda,
where bureaucrat capitalists and imperialists benefit instead of the people.
Strengthening the No Balance Billing policy is useless when there are not enough government-run hospitals and when health facilities are poorly funded and understaffed. Even indigent members wind up paying for the medicines themselves or worse, go to private centers because these are the only ones nearby.

"Is this what President Duterte meant by change? That he will just do more of the same old things?"

The presidential backpedalling is not new. In his recent pronouncements, President Duterte has turned his back on the substantive issues and immediate concerns of Filipinos.

He promised to end labor contractualization, support genuine land reform, assert an independent foreign policy, and pursue the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines before and after he won the presidency.

For HEAD, the direction that the Duterte administration is taking reveals much of the interests it now represents. "President Duterte is now far removed from the people he alleges to serve. This is not the leadership we deserve. This is not the change that we want," Dr. Santiago lamented.##

Sunday, July 23, 2017

SONA 2017: Change in Health, Non-existent and Intangible

"What change would you expect if the Duterte Health Agenda pursues the same neoliberal policies that the previous administrations pursued? The answer is nothing," said Dr. Darby Santiago, Health Alliance for Democracy Chairperson. "Change in health is non-existent and intangible."

Gomampong Gymnasium, Baloi, Lanao del Norte, jampacked with evacuees from Marawi City. Evacuees line up on the left side of the image for the medical mission/checkup. Photo taken June 15, 2017.

"Privatization and corporatization of healthcare in its various forms continue. Budget cuts plague our public healthcare delivery system. Medicine and vaccines remain lacking in communities, while millions worth of these rot in storage rooms," added Dr. Santiago. "Then there's the casual killing of doctors who serve communities, further depriving the poor of much-needed healthcare and medical attention."

"Malnutrition worsened. HIV cases increased. Countless data prove that the health of Filipinos has in fact worsened. Yet the Department of Health and the Duterte administration has yet to implement policies that would result to substantial change," added Dr. Santiago. "Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results, therefore DOH is insane to think that neoliberal policies will solve the ills of our healthcare system."

"One thing is clear: the fascist Duterte administration cannot bring real change; the change we need remains in the hands of the Filipino people through our collective action and empowerment," added Dr. Santiago. "Our struggle for a free, comprehensive, and progressive healthcare must continue. Our struggle for a just and peaceful society shall flourish."##

Martial Law Extension Means Extension of Humanitarian Crisis, State Abuses – Health Groups

Health Alliance for Democracy strongly condemns the extension of martial law in Mindanao up to
December 31, 2017. By voting for the extension, the Congress and the Senate have exposed themselves as mere tentacles to the President and his rabid dogs Lorenzana, Esperon, and Año.

As the bureaucrats pander to their precious soldiers, largely lost in the narrative is the massive humanitarian crisis that Duterte's martial law has brought upon the people of Mindanao. Half a million Moros have been displaced, the Lumad have been forced out of their communities by the military, and human rights violations abound not just in the south but in the entire country.

Students hold placards in front of the Philippine General Hospital in an action against Martial Law in Mindanao.

And yet, the political elite have dismissed the massive evacuation and civilian deaths as mere "collateral damage" to the US-AFP counter-terrorist agenda. It is clear which masters they serve.

HEAD likewise condemns the detention and calls for the release of the #Kabataan8 who launched a lightning protest during the session. The incident is a reminder of how a reactionary state responds to legitimate public dissent.

Without any hindsight, Duterte and his allies continue to address the conflict in Mindanao and in the entire country through a rightist, militarist policy. But time and time again, history has taught that the enduring socio-economic crisis in the country feeds the growth of rebellion. Because of this, his martial law, as that of his hero Ferdinand Marcos, will ultimately fail.

The health sector is resolute in standing with the Filipino people against Dutert's martial law and his fascist rule. It will march on Monday, during the president's SONA, to show its indignation and call for the lifting of martial law. President Duterte must serve the Filipino people, not the US imperialist agenda of waging war for its own profit.##

Sunday, July 16, 2017

DOH blasted for ‘washing hands’ over Cavite provincial doctor slay

Health Alliance for Democracy blasted the Department of Health for again downplaying its responsibility in the protection of health personnel. This, following the killing of Cavite Provincial Health Officer, Dr. George R. Repique, Jr. Dr. Repique is the third physician to be shot and killed within the last five months.

HEAD together with PROJUST (Protection and Justice for Frontline Healthworkers) held a candle lighting action in front of the Philippine General Hospital on July 13 for the killing of Dr. George Repique Jr.

In an official statement on Friday, DOH Secretary Paulyn Ubial deplored the killing and acknowledged the string of unresolved killings of doctors, but she makes no mention of what the department will do in response to this.  In fact, in the five months since Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas and Dr. Shahid Sinolinding have died, no clear mechanism has been put in place to protect the other frontline health workers currently in the field.

All the DOH has done is to pass on this responsibility to local government units – an utter absence of commitment, sincerity, and leadership. While it continues to watch by idly, doctors are dying and health workers are being harassed. This is not the DOH we deserve.

Candles lit for Dr. George.
HEAD calls on the DOH to do the following:

1. The department should come up with a clear, unequivocal statement that it will protect its health workers at all cost and that it will work tirelessly to get justice for them;

2. It should set up a mechanism by which it can get complaints and immediately assist frontline health workers;

3. It should meet with the DILG to delineate their respective tasks and responsibilities in protecting health workers;

4. It should immediately undertake the thorough investigation of these cases as well as complaints raised by other frontline health personnel regarding harassments and threats;

5. It should insist that the PNP and DOJ bring the full force of the law against the perpetrators; and,

6. It should ask President Duterte to make a strong stance on protecting health workers, the same way that he persistently does for his soldiers.

The DOH should not simply "support efforts to obtain justice" in these killings, but should exercise clear leadership for the protection of those who serve.##

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Third Doctor Killed under Duterte: Cavite Provincial Doctor Shot Outside Hospital

Health Alliance for Democracy strongly condemns the murder of Dr. George R. Repique, Jr., Provincial Health Officer of Cavite. He is the third doctor to be killed in five months, after the killing of Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas in March and Dr. Jaja Sinolinding in April.

Justice is yet to be served for Dr. Drey and Dr. Jaja, and the death of Dr. Repique confirms the continuing impunity in our country. We demand justice for our killed colleagues. We demand that perpetrators be arrested and punished. The Department of Health cannot dismiss his death as another isolated case and must take concrete steps to protect frontline health workers.

Dr. Repique was a member of the University of the Philippines – College of Medicine class of 1993. He had a very strong public health perspective and had partnered with the UP Community Health and Development Program. He was the Provincial Health Officer of Cavite when he was shot on July 11, just outside General Emilio Aguinaldo Memorial Hospital. He died in the emergency room.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

AFP and Martial Law: Direct Threat to Lives and Well Being of People

"Terrorism and state terrorism have always been threats to lives and well-being. But you do not solve a problem by creating a bigger problem. Maute is a problem, but the Armed Forces of the Philippines and their implementation of Martial Law is a bigger problem," said Dr. Joseph M. Carabeo, Secretary General of Health Alliance for Democracy.

"What should have been a simple police problem and failed intelligence has been rewarded with vast military powers and authoritarian rule, directly threatening people's rights," added Dr. Carabeo. "We must remember that even without Martial Law, the police and military have been the primary violators of human rights in the Philippines. With the suspension of basic rights under Martial Law, we fear worse human rights violations by state forces."

"It doesn't help that fake news probably fueled the declaration of Martial Law, throwing the people of Mindanao into chaos. The people now 'turn to' the foremost human rights violators, the military, as their knight in shining armor," said Dr. Carabeo. "This condition drowns out the voices of the victims of military abuse, at the same time diminishes the evil and discriminatory character of aerial bombings, as if it can only be directed to their target terrorists. But the picture of thousands of people fleeing their communities is enough testament to the worsening situation than the military frenzy hopes to address."

"The peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which aims to address the roots of our social problems, have also become a casualty," lamented Carabeo. "The panel and the people's hard work towards attaining a just and lasting peace has gone down the drain, at least for now. No justice, no peace, no health."

Health Alliance for Democracy beseechs the help of fellow health professionals, health workers, health science students and health advocates to call for the end of Martial Law in Mindanao. Vast military powers and authoritarian rule under Martial Law is an additional threat to the people of Mindanao. Casualties among civilians will only increase through aerial bombings. Never again to Martial Law!##

Thursday, May 11, 2017

HEAD Joins Global Resistance against RCEP and Imperialist Globalization

Health groups under the Health Alliance for Democracy joined the multi-sectoral protest action against Imperialist Globalization on May 11, 2017. "The closed-door meetings between world economic leaders, businessmen, and countries involved in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership pose serious threats to basic human rights, including health," said HEAD Chairperson Dr. Darby Santiago.

RCEP is a free-trade agreement between the ten member states of ASEAN, with China bearing the lead role in response to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnerships. Specific details behind RCEP remain secret, although several leaks point to the same neoliberal policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization that are in the TPP. "Health workers' rights are primarily at risk: these trade agreements seek to facilitate cheap labor and resources from the Philippines and other underdeveloped countries in Southeast Asia. Aside from low wages, these entail worse working conditions as corporations want to secure more profit," said Dr. Santiago.

"What's even scary is the drive to intensify patent laws, which will worsen the people's access to cheaper medicines. RCEP ensures that private companies will own exclusive rights to produce drugs, including the generic ones, resulting to monopoly and higher cost of medicines," added Santiago. For starters, branded HIV/AIDS medication costs 13,000 US dollars per person per year; the generic version only costs 67 US dollars. Generic drug pharmacies are also at risk of going out of business.

"The investor-state dispute settlement seals the deal to completely reject these imperialist impositions. Under RCEP and similar free-trade agreements, trans-national corporations can sue country states if that country's laws and constitution prevent them from reaping profits," added Santiago. Whether we win or lose the case comes the litigation costs, such as in the MWSS v Maynilad case where we paid 52 million US dollars for litigation alone. "It's tax payers' money, which could have been spent for free healthcare or salaries of health workers. Worse, it meddles with our sovereignty. The welfare of the people would be in peril."

"That the head of states discuss economic treaties with businessmen behind closed doors warrant public scrutiny. It compels us to ask, 'what about the people?'" said Dr. Santiago. "Health care, education, labor conditions, agriculture and other basic services, struggles fought and won, are in danger of being lost by the people en masse. The Duterte administration must prioritize its primary stakeholders – the Filipinos people – and reject these economic neoliberal impositions."

Amidst these great challenges, the people's resistance against these free trade agreements grows stronger by the minute. Health Alliance for Democracy joins the international clamor to resist RCEP and the ever growing threat of imperialist globalization in Southeast Asia. We call on our fellow health professionals, health workers, health science students, patients, and health advocates to join the resistance. Our collective action together with multi-sectoral groups shall prevent RCEP and free-trade agreements from endangering the very fabric of our society.##