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.##

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Health Groups Support #OccupyBulacan!

Health Alliance for Democracy and other health groups will join the People's Caravan in support of #OccupyBulacan on March 18, Saturday. "This Occupy movement is a culmination of the urban poor's desire to liberate themselves from dire and unhealthy living conditions," said HEAD Secretary General Dr. Joseph Carabeo. "Where the government fails, the people will assert."

"Homelessness unnecessarily exposes people to sickness and disease. The Duterte administration should therefore acknowledge the legitimate demands of the urban poor and heed their call instead of tagging as anarchy their assertion and collective action," said Dr. Carabeo. "The urban poor communities under Kadamay assert their rights because the government institutions have been failing, yet these failures are shrugged off as a mere problem of bureaucracy. President Rodrigo Duterte should stand with the people."

HEAD members participate in a medical mission in the relocation sites occupied by Kadamay in Pandi, Bulacan.

"When we say health, the environment where people live is a huge factor. Decent homes contribute greatly to the prevention of disease," said Dr. Carabeo. "It doesn't help that when the poor get sick, the rotting public healthcare system also fails to give them free and adequate treatment."
Urban poor communities under Kadamay occupied around 5000 houses in a relocation site in Pandi, Bulacan on March 8. The group occupied vacant houses that have dilapidated over time as these have remained unused for years. On March 17, they occupied additional 1200 houses in Pandi Atlantica.

"The Duterte administration and the National Housing Authority along with the local government units should take further steps to improve the living conditions in the relocation sites," added Carabeo. "Electricity and water are among the basic needs that people need to attain a healthy and clean environment. Immediate action must be taken to ensure that the rights of the people are prioritized."

HEAD is one with the urban poor in their struggle for decent and healthy living conditions. Health groups will bring food, water, and health services to the occupied relocation sites as part of the People's Caravan in support of #OccupyBulacan.

Two Doctors in Two Months: On the killing of rural doctor Sajid "Jaja" Sinolinding

Health Alliance for Democracy condemns in the strongest terms the killing of Dr. Sajid "Jaja" Sinolinding in Cotabato City, Tuesday. The ophthalmologist was shot dead alongside his security escort in his clinic by a gunman who posed as a patient.

HEAD is outraged that two doctors have been ruthlessly killed in two months. Last March Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas, a municipal health officer in Lanao del Norte, was shot in the back—his and Dr. Jaja's killers remain at large.

"How many more health workers need to die before the Department of Health and this administration stop idling around and start protecting our barrio doctors?" asked Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD secretary-general. "Every day front line health personnel are putting their lives on the line to serve their countrymen, but the government repays them with indifference, deaf to the bullets that kill them."

Health groups under the Protection and Justice for Frontline Health Workers (Pro-Just) call to stop the attacks on health workers, April 7, 2017.

"What's glaring in Dr. Jaja's case is that he already had a security escort. This did not stop him from getting killed," Carabeo remarked.

Carabeo implored the DOH and the local and national governments to hasten the investigations on the deaths of Dr. Perlas and Dr. Sinolinding. "The underserved areas have lost much-needed doctors, and that their cases remain unresolved sends a chilling message to health workers all over the country," he said.

The DOH in particular must stop hiding behind the local government units and the national government, and assert its role as protector of health workers. "There have been cases where local governments were involved in the harassment of health workers and professionals. These must be taken more seriously. The continuous harassment and killings of health workers and health professionals must not be dismissed as 'isolated cases'. Simply transferring health workers from one community to another will not stop them from being targeted," warned Carabeo. “If not the DOH, then who else will?"

HEAD calls on members of the health sector to be steadfast in their commitment to serve the people by uniting in the outrage against the murder of their colleagues. It also calls on the public to condemn this brutal killing and unite in the call for justice.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Neoliberal Policies Make People Crazy

"Neoliberal attacks and imperialist impositions threaten and worsen social determinants of mental health," said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, Secretary General of Health Alliance for Democracy, as health groups under the International League of People's Struggle–Health Commission, People's Health Movement–Southeast Asia, and the Coalition for People's Right to Health gathered in front of the World Health Organization office on UN Avenue, Ermita, Manila on World Health Day, April 7. "We collectively bring attention to the public and the policy holders, both global and local, the various issues that undermine the attainment of the people's right to health."

WHO takes on depression as the theme on this year's World Health Day. They acknowledged social inequality and the importance of social and physical determinants in achieving mental health, which include access to health resources, job security, public safety, and shelter among others. "Yet they are silent on continuous neoliberal attacks and imperialist impositions that threaten and worsen these very determinants," said Dr. Carabeo.

"In a nutshell, neoliberalism seeks to open up basic social services such as health to the market for profit, while the government forces down our throats the policies that permit this desecration of social services," explained Dr. Carabeo. "It justifies the imperialist need to open up new avenues for profit and business, so that imperialist countries and their bureaucrat capitalist allies can continue to prosper. Privatization or corporatization of healthcare is one prevalent example."

Health groups pose for photos: Social conditions such as poverty, landlessness, militarization, low wages and budget cuts affect mental health.

"The neoliberal policy of privatization or corporatization undermines access to health resources as the cost of services soar," added Carabeo. "Worse, government funding is redirected to health financing such as PhilHealth instead of direct hospital services, leaving patients at the mercy of health insurance and private hospitals seeking higher returns. Trade liberalization on the drug industry in the form of drug patents limits the production of cheaper if not free medicines. Meanwhile, neoliberal policies on employment such as contractualization undermine the job security of health workers. The list goes on as the health of the masses erodes along with these determinants."

"The Duterte administration and the Department of Health must not abandon its responsibility and ensure that public health interests are not trampled by business interests," added Carabeo. "The World Health Organization on the other hand must take further steps to press governments to pursue policies on the economic and political levels that promote mental health instead of undermining it. Neoliberal attacks on health in the Philippines must stop!"

"World Health Day should be a day for championing the people's right to health. We must resist neoliberal attacks and imperialist impositions on health. Let us bring these issues to the attention of the public and concerned institutions as we continue to struggle for our right to health!" Carabeo ended.##

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Justice Must Be Served Stat! Protect Frontline Health Personnel Now!

Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) joins #BlackMonday and stands in solidarity with the collective condemnation of the killing of Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas. Dr. Perlas was the Municipal Health Officer of Sapad, Lanao del Norte when he was shot and killed last March 1.

Health personnel at the frontlines, including doctors, nurses, and midwives, face various difficulties and dangers in the performance of their duties. Yet the most dangerous of these hazards are those that are man-made: intimidations, harassments, and actual acts of violence that constitute not only gross human rights violations but also direct threats on their lives. This must stop.

Health professionals, health workers, and health science students mourn and condemn the killing of Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas.

We call for the swift institution of justice. Without the immediate resolution, conviction, and punishment of the perpetrators, the death of an MHO and a former member of the Doctors to the Barrios program of the Department of Health sends a chilling message to those who wish to serve in underserved areas. This must not happen.

We call on the DOH to come up with an unequivocal policy on the protection of health workers, both in the private and public sector, especially those who serve in disadvantaged and marginalized areas. The DOH, as well as the Duterte administration, should initiate actions and programs that will ensure the protection and security of health personnel all across the country. This must be done now.

We call on the health sector to honor the memory of Dr. Drey and others like him by remaining steadfast in their commitment and by continuing to serve the underserved.

We call on the general public to continue to express their outrage and join the clamor for justice. Let us link arms as we move forward with greater conviction and resolve.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

HEAD condemns killing of Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas

Health Alliance for Democracy condemns the killing of Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas, a dedicated community doctor serving in Sapad, Lanao Del Norte under the Doctors to the Barrios program by the Department of Health. The group calls on the Duterte government, the DOH, and the local government unit to thoroughly investigate the incident, go after the assailant/s and/or mastermind of the crime and accord the due penalty.

"Justice for Dr. Drey can also be served best if the government can assure the continuity of health services in the communities that he left and by addressing all obstacles to the delivery of health services including a secured environment for our health providers especially the volunteer doctors and nurses to the underserved areas," said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD Secretary General.

"While there will be chilling effects on present and future volunteers, we will not let this incident be used by the DOH to downsize further target volunteers and cut its budget allocation as it did in 2017, allegedly because there are few takers," Dr. Carabeo added. "Instead, the DOH should assert its protective, assuring, and influencing role for the unhampered delivery of service by its personnel."

HEAD will continue to exalt and support our heroes in health as they continue to serve in various difficult communities and dare turn their backs to the lure of lucrative practice in the city or abroad. Padayon gihapon!