Sunday, March 4, 2018

Justice unserved, justice ignored

One year after his murder, justice remains elusive for Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas. Doctors and other medical professionals marked the first year anniversary of Dr. Drey’s death by renewing calls for justice! 

Candle lighting ceremony, calling for justice for Dr. Drey's death, March 3, 2017.
"While we commemorate his death in various ways, we are united in demanding for justice, as the perpetrators and mastermind of his murder remain at large," said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, Secretary-General of Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD). "Worse, not much has been done to protect frontline health workers from such violence!"

Dr. Drey was serving rural communities in Lanao Del Norte when he was killed in March 1, 2017. He continued to serve as a municipal health officer after his stint with the Doctors to the Barrios (DTTB) program of the Department of Health.

Soon after, Dr. Sajid Sinolinding of Cotabato City and Dr. George Repique, Provincial Health Officer of Cavite, were killed in April and July, respectively.

These deaths have highlighted the risks that frontline health workers face in the performance of their duties. However, the DOH still has to institute comprehensive and clear-cut protective measures.

"After the deaths of seven doctors in 2017, what changes have the DOH made to protect health personnel at the frontlines? Apparently none." Carabeo lamented. "How many more doctors need to die in 2018 before the DOH acts? Before Dr. Drey gets any measure of justice?" 

The health sector stands firm with Dr. Drey's family and friends, as well as colleagues and other health professionals, in demanding justice. Moreover, the protection of health personnel serving the frontlines where healthcare is most needed remains a social, practical, and moral imperative that the government must address.##

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Cha-Cha will kill public healthcare – HEAD

Press release: February 24, 2018

The 100% foreign ownership provision under the Duterte administration's charter-change (Cha-Cha) completes the long-term scheme to sell and privatize public utilities, including government hospitals. Foreign corporations want complete takeover, and the Duterte administration, in connivance with the supermajority in Congress, is too eager to oblige. This will usher the death of public healthcare.

Healthcare has long been targeted to be part of free-market opportunities. Notice how most hospital equipment, even syringes and cotton balls, are all imported and expensive? That is just one aspect. The beautification of government hospitals – despite understaffing, inadequate beds, and lack of medicine and supplies – is no accident. Government policy dictates superficial improvements to make hospitals enticing for investors, and Duterte's Cha-Cha ensures that foreign corporations can own government hospitals.

Corporate takeover of healthcare will result to increased healthcare costs. And with 100% takeover, government funds through PhilHealth will only be siphoned to make huge profits for these foreign corporations. That is if PhilHealth coverage can be availed in the first place, otherwise out-of-pocket expenditures of patients will sky rocket.

The Duterte administration's Cha-Cha will constitutionalize privatization, deregularization, denationalization, and free trade deals. Public healthcare in the Philippines will not only worsen but will cease to exist under Cha-cha, and with this comes the death of Filipinos.

Charter change will erode the remaining pro-people and nationalist provisions of the 1987 Constitution. The phrase "security of tenure" will be deleted, allowing businesses to make super profit, but upon the back of contractual labor and cheap wage. Genuine agrarian reform will be thrown out of the way, allowing more foreign plantations for export instead of sustainable growth. Medicines shall remain expensive because they are imported, despite raw materials being sourced here.

If we want to increase health workers' wages, the sale of hospitals to private and foreign corporations needs to be prevented. If we want free and accessible healthcare services, we need to overcome free-market ideologies that seek to profit over health. If we want a free, comprehensive, and progressive healthcare system, we need to stop charter change.##

Thursday, February 8, 2018

HEAD to DOH: More dialogue, more action, more accountability

Press release: February 8, 2018

The "sudden" loss of trust in the government immunization program or rapid drop in children getting immunization is not just solely due to Dengvaxia, the Public Attorneys Office pronouncements, or even poorly informed/opinionated media slant. This may have been long time coming and the government just refused to acknowledge the signs.

For decades, the government immunization program has been implemented with little informed consent and no real information given to the public. Proper information has not been disseminated, so it has become very easy for the public to be convinced with poor or even wrong information, just like what is happening now.

If fears of the public are still not being assuaged, the Department of Health needs to do more, reach out more, and ensure that from the smallest health center to the biggest hospital, all are prepared to meet the needs of Dengvaxia children.

The people are waiting for doctors to talk to them and not just talk among themselves. If the public cannot hear our doctors, then the message might not be getting across. Perhaps it's not even what people need to hear.

In short, only by being forthcoming and acknowledging the pros and cons of vaccines will it be possible to regain public trust. More correct information through sincere dialogues at the grassroots level will be key, rather than just proclaiming expertise. Unless the DOH does more to serve and engage the people, fear and anxiety will continue to fester.##

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Address the chaos, prosecute perpetrators

Press release: February 7, 2018 

Sanofi-Pasteur, the Aquino administration, and former health secretary Janette Garin must be held accountable for the Dengvaxia fiasco, according to Health Alliance for Democracy, an organization composed of doctors, nurses, midwives, health workers and other professionals. Address the chaos, and there should be punishment for deceit!

"Corporate greed and corruption have systematically put Filipino children to harm's way," said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD Secretary General. "The haste for profit and commission has put to bad light our country's vaccination programs, which are a generally useful and a preventive health intervention."

"The parents' worries remain," said Carabeo. "They ask where they will go if their child gets sick. Would there be free treatment for those who were vaccinated? These questions remain even for the general Filipino public."

"The Department of Health must therefore ensure strict monitoring, free healthcare, and check-ups for the affected population," added Carabeo. "An extensive education campaign is also necessary, while the Duterte administration must do its utmost in holding accountable the perpetrators in the Dengvaxia fiasco. These steps will help bring back the trust that was lost for vaccination programs."

HEAD also encourages our colleagues in the health profession to join forces. Take the initiative and let's go down to communities to explain and calm down the parents, conduct educational forums on vaccination to alleviate their fears.

As long as our healthcare and drug industry are dependent on big foreign pharmaceuticals, as long as government officials prioritize profit and self-interest, the people's health will suffer and the Dengvaxia fiasco will repeat itself. Corporate greed and corruption must never triumph over the people's welfare. Therefore the struggle for a free, comprehensive, and progressive healthcare is needed more than ever.##

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dengvaxia blunder: political consideration over sound science

The Aquino administration and the Department of Health maneuvered a P3.5 billion budget for a vaccine that now put 700,000 Filipino children at greater health risk. The decision of the authorities to procure, approve its commercial release, and implement the mass vaccination using Dengvaxia, all in haste,   was based on political consideration and not on sound science.
Gabriela organization member holds a placard in a protest action in front of the Department of Health.

Health groups and local experts have adamantly questioned all these beforehand but have fallen to deaf ears. A year after implementation, clinical trial results revealed that Dengvaxia causes severe dengue fever to those who have not contracted dengue before.

 The Aquino administration, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, DOH, and Sanofi must be held accountable for this deception. DOH must also address the fears that this blunder have unleashed. How should the vaccinated children be protected from now on? What measures will be done to monitor those at risk and provide them with the means of proper healthcare to mitigate the risks?
Protesters, whose children were vaccinated with Dengvaxia, burn an immage of former president Benigno Aquino at the gates of the Department of Health.
The general notion that vaccines are meant to protect a person from infection has been marred with this withheld information on Dengvaxia that there is greater health risk for a segment of the target population. Sanofi now tries to console the public saying that around 80% to 90% of us may have had dengue and we were just not aware! Now it is everybody's guessing game, with thousands of Filipino children systematically put in harm's way.

To the parents and children: Do not panic! Ok lang magalit. Ask for explanations! Monitor the health advisories, and consult accordingly. Exercise your right to information and healthcare. Immunizations generally remain to be an important tool for prevention. Service and patient safety must guide the discovery and eventual use of new vaccines, not politics and profit motives. The Aquino administration, former health secretary Garin, and the institutions involved must be held accountable.##

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nothing revolutionary in Duterte's RevGov

Picture this: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, together with former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (and her cronies and generals), Joseph Ejercito Estrada (with his own set of cronies), Imelda and Bongbong Marcos, and Aquino-allied oligarchs and cronies. This is Duterte's "Revolutionary Government," and at one glance, there's nothing revolutionary about it.

There is nothing revolutionary in a government who cradles people who have been rejected by the masses. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was under hospital arrest for rigging the elections and corruption charges, but now miraculously healed after Duterte released her. Erap was impeached due to plunder and perjury; his son Jinggoy now also walks free from the same charges as his father. The Marcoses whose corrupt dictatorship was toppled by the people are now vying for top positions of power.

A protester holds a placard during the November 30, Bonifacio day protest against Duterte's fascism and RevGov along Recto avenue.

There is nothing revolutionary in a government that chose war and conflict, throwing away peaceful and substantial solutions for genuine change, and that which will address the roots of armed conflict. Duterte cancelled the peace talks after meeting with United States president Donald Trump. Common drafts for agrarian reform and national industrialization are ready for signing by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. Duterte tossed these aside and declared war against the revolutionary armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army.

There's nothing revolutionary in a government that attacks and kills the people it vowed to serve, while failing to deliver promises. Attacks on human rights groups have increased after Duterte declared a "crackdown" on activists and organizations pushing for legitimate demands and changes. The president also plans to re-instill Oplan Tokhang even after the same campaign led to 13,000 people killed in just a year. Duterte's fascism only paves the way for his dictatorship.

There's nothing revolutionary in a government who favors capitalist and imperialist interests over developing our own local industries. With economic policies leaning towards loosening trade restrictions and increasing foreign ownership, plunder of our resources is imminent. Farmers will have lesser lands to till, while wages will remain low under dire working conditions to maintain the steady flow of income for these foreign investors. Duterte advocates increasing foreign investment and ownership, literally selling out the Philippines, a far-cry from his "independent foreign policy."

A true revolutionary government is one that is supported by the masses, of farmers and workers, by people who believe that change is not in the hands of a single person, but on the collective action of the masses.

The fascist US-Duterte regime is a fool to think that it can silence the woke masses through attacks and killings. It is a greater fool to think that a fascist dictatorship shall flourish while poverty and the roots of armed conflict are never addressed. The people's resistance against fascism will only strengthen under repression. With this, Health Alliance for Democracy stands with the Filipino people together with various organizations from a multitude of sectors in rejecting Duterte's fascist rule. No to fascism. No to imperialism. Never again to dictatorship!##

Duterte, a war monster – Health group

Almost immediately after President Duterte's official cancellation of the peace talks, his military has announced intensified and focused military operations against the New People's Army. The Armed Forces of the Philippines aggression will make deaths, human rights violations, displacements and illnesses of civilians a certainty that will burst whatever Christmas spirit people hold on to in this crisis-laden year. 

An effigy of President Duterte with US President Trump on his back at the November 30, Bonifacio day protest against Duterte's fascism and RevGov.

Duterte officially canceled the peace talks on November 24, despite the supposed talks in Norway set at November 25 to 27. Common drafts on agrarian reform and national industrialization are already up for signing: these could have addressed the roots of armed conflict and lead to a just and lasting peace.

Duterte has also declared war against what he called "terrorists," ordering a crackdown on "reds" and "leftist fronts." These labels however can be applied to anyone, much like the "drug addict" label of his war on drugs, which had left 13,000 people killed in a year. Similarly, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's counter-terror policies implemented then by General Hermogenes Esperon (now a cabinet member of Duterte) left a bloody record of tortured, missing, and dead activists and human rights defenders (120 extra-judicial killings a year). Duterte is set to beef up his disastrous human rights record.

Fascism worsens by the minute under the US-Duterte regime. In the face of a fascist dictatorship, the people have no other choice but to resist (a healthy choice in an ailing system). Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) is an organization composed of health professionals, health workers, health science students, and health advocates in the Philippines and abroad.##