STOP THE HARASSMENT OF CORDILLERA HEALTH WORKERS!
We, the undersigned health professionals, students and workers, development workers, human rights defenders, friends, relatives and concerned citizens call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to effect an immediate, independent, transparent and thorough investigation on the harassment of staff and volunteers of Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE). CHESTCORE is an NGO established in 1981 which aims to build community-based health programs. We are alarmed by the escalating harassment of the staff and volunteers of CHESTCORE in recent months. We condemn the state security forces (Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit and other paramilitary forces) for their acts of harassment of CHESTCORE staff and volunteers. The staff and volunteers are receiving threats through text messages and being subjected to surveillance. They are also being subjected to other forms of harassment such as interrogation and intimidation while rendering health services and conducting health trainings in far flung areas of the Cordillera Region. Such acts do not only deprive these health workers of their right to be protected and respected while doing their duties. It also deprives the far-flung communities of their right to health. We urgently call for an end to the harassment of Cordillera health workers, in the spirit of upholding our basic human rights, the right to life and security and the people’s right to health. With the implementation of the AFP’s Oplan Bantay Laya, many community workers became victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs). In most cases, the victims of EJKs were first labeled as Communists and/or NPA sympathizers and then subjected to intensifying surveillance and finally, given direct threats. Even as the AFP recently announced in its new Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan that they will adhere to Human Rights/ International Humanitarian Law and the Rule of Law, we fear that there are no guarantees that this pattern of red labeling, surveillance, harassment and EJKs will stop. We call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to withdraw the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) Bayanihan. We call for thorough investigation on the cases CHESTCORE filed with the Commission on Human Rights and the Joint Peace Panel of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in the ongoing Peace Talks We call on the Philippine Government to observe the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) and other international human rights laws and declarations such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). These laws provide that medical personnel, including personnel of medical organizations, including their establishments, facilities, transport and equipment in the field, have the right to enjoy protection and respect accorded to civilian non-combatants. We demand an end to the harassment of Cordillera Health Workers. We demand an end to the militarization of Cordillera communities. We stand in solidarity with CHESTCORE in asserting the people’s right to health. Sincerely,