'Abduction' of health workers in Rizal assailed

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 06 2010 08:58 PM | Updated as of Feb 07 2010 06:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) on Saturday condemned what they called “the illegal raid and abduction” of 42 community health workers and doctors in Morong, Rizal province.

“We denounce the illegal raid and violent abduction perpetrated by the Rizal-PNP [Philippine National Police] and AFP-SOLCOM [Armed Forces of the Philippines-Southern Luzon Command] against medical personnel,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD Secretary-General.

Rivera said they hold “the Arroyo government fully accountable for whatever happens to our colleagues.”

Early Saturday morning, joint police and military teams were supposed to serve a search warrant on a certain Mario Condes in Barangay Maybangcal, Morong when they chanced upon 42 people believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte.

Rivera said the participants who were there to conduct health skills training were lined up, blindfolded and frisked to Camp Capinpin, the headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade (IB).

“The raiding team used bogus search and arrest warrants, and disregarded the rights of Dr. Velmonte, who owns the property,” Rivera said.

HEAD maintained that Velmonte is a well-known and respected infectious disease specialist. The farmhouse is a regular venue of health trainings of participants both from the communities and the academe.

Rivera described the health workers as volunteers who provide health services to poor communities. The doctors, meanwhile, were community-based medical practitioners working for different non-government organizations (NGOs). Their personal belongings, as well the training materials used, were all confiscated by the military.

Col. Aurelio Baladad of the Philippine Army's 202nd IB claimed the group was caught in the act of holding some bomb-making materials (Read: Troops nab 42 suspected NPAs in doctor's rest house)

Baladad added that firearms and bomb-making materials and improvised land mines, including campaign materials of party-list group, Bayan Muna, were recovered from the compound.

“The persistent attempts to link the participants to the New People’s Army are obvious efforts to discredit legal organizations that have been critical of the Arroyo regime,” Rivera said.

Rivera also accused the military and police of being the biggest violators of human rights in the country.

“We demand the immediate release of our colleagues!” Rivera said.