Category Archives: health

US lawyers tell BSA: “Free Morong 43”

By Gerry Albert Corpuz, http://www.allvoices.com MANILA, Philippines-

American lawyers belonging to the National Lawyers Guild on Saturday added their voice to the growing demand of the international human rights and social justice community to immediately and unconditionally release the 43 health workers illegally arrested and detained by the Philippine military last Feb.6 this year in Morong, a municipality east of Metro Manila.

In a resolution approved during the NLG assembly in New Orleans, the American lawyers group put to task President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to free the detained health workers known as Morong 43.

The resolution, a copy of which was emailed to http://www.allvoices.com was dispatched to Malacanang, barely a day after Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Leila de Lima said the recommendation on the case will be forwarded to Malacanang anytime next week. On February 6, 2010 a force of 300 Philippine police and military illegally raided and abducted 43 community health workers including doctors and nurses who were conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal, Philippines.

“These health workers and doctors administer health services to poor communities, and were participating in a week long First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD),” the NLG said in a resolution approved by its members during the assembly at New Orleans recently.

The NLG added that “these health workers were being trained to go to rural areas where the government does not provide medical services and who are most vulnerable during devastating typhoons which have been hitting the Philippines and devastating many rural communities.

“But, because people in many of these rural country side areas are considered enemies of the state, the government as part of its “counterinsurgency plan” targets people such as these health workers claiming they are in fact part of the insurgent movement in the Philippines and if the work is of a progressive nature they are assumed to be members of the New People’s Army,” the NLG resolution added. According to NLG, the training took place at a conference center owned by a renowned Doctor in the Philippines.

The workers were rounded up and taken to the central conference room while the military conducted an illegal search of the cabins and grounds, and claimed to have found a gun and some explosive materials. “The workers deny any connection to such materials and believe that the evidence was planted. Their personal belongings, as well the training m materials used, were all confiscated by the military,” it said.

The NLG said the lawyers for the workers immediately filed a petition for habeas corpus, claiming the search warrant was defective and the arrest illegal. “Marcos era law indicates that if those arrested are charged within 36 hours the illegality of the search and arrest cannot be attacked in a habeas petition. . In this case the charges, of possession of explosives, a non bailable offense, were not filed until 5 days later,” it said. The NLG also took note of the Supreme Court action on the Morong 43 case where the habeas was initially filed referred the case back to the court of appeal.

The court of appeal at first split 2-1 in favor of granting the habeas, but the government then added two more judges to the appeals panel making resulting in a 3-2 denial of the habeas.The NLG said it was shocked to learned that the 43 health workers were held in military camps until May 1, 2010. For days they were deprived the right to counsel during interrogation and there are many reports of sleep deprivation, beatings, electrical shock and the like. “Although they were transferred to jails near Manila in May their cases are in limbo.

They cannot be arraigned and tried while the habeas is pending because under Philippine law, if they are arraigned they lose the right to challenge the illegality of the search and the arrests through a habeas and a potential trial of all 43 would take years,” it said. On September 15, 2010 members of the IADL bureau met with the new Secretary de Lima, and urged her to conduct a review of these cases.

De Lima according to IADL lawyers agreed before her meeting with the IADL bureau to review these cases, and render an opinion on whether the cases should go forward. The IADL at its bureau meeting in Manila on September 16-17, 2010 decided to launch a world wide campaign to continue the pressure on the government to rescind the charges against these health workers and in particular to ensure that the Justice Secretary will act quickly to review the charges and withdraw them.

IADL is asking that National Affiliates such the NLG join in this effort.Officials and members of the NLG said they had decided to send a letter to the Justice Secretary to express the lawyers’ concern for the rights of these health workers, and requesting her to review and rescind the charges.

The NLG is also planning to send a delegation and meet the Philippine Ambassador in the United States to talk the case and launch a global campaign to pressure President Aquino and the military to free the 43 health workers. Meanwhile, the Philippine foreign affairs department announced President Aquino will be in Hanoi, Vietnam on October 28-30 to talk on human rights in East Asia and the Pacific.

The East Asia summit will be attended by members of Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN), Russia and the US, China, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, India, South Korea and Australia. The Manila foreign affairs department said the President is expected to call for vigilance over Myanmar’s first democratic elections which has been ruled by military dictatorship over the last thirty years.

But critics of Aquino argued the 50-year old president has no political and moral ascendancy to talk about protection of human rights in the East Asia conference.

Rural based groups such as the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the biggest peasant group in the country and staunch ally Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in a joint statement said Aquino is bound to emulate and surpass the brutal human rights records of previous President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.KMP and Pamalakaya said in the first 100 days in office of President Aquino, the AFP backed death squad had already claimed 16 lives of political activists in the country, about 11 to 12 of them are farmers affiliated with chapters of KMP all over the country.

The government under the extended counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) continues to file fabricated charges against leaders of activist rural organizations in the country.

Recently, a leader of Pamalakaya in Negros, Western Philippines was charged with arson and other criminal charges in connection with the Oct.5 attack at Victorias Milling Corporation compound where a milling equipment amounting to P 600,000 was burned by the Maoist guerillas operating in the hinterlands of Negros Island.

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6 groups grilled Defense chief on torture of Morong 43

By Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Bb. Joyce Cabral

As the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) today sets court appearance of 43 doctors and health workers before the Court of Appeals for their writ of habeas corpus hearing, six rural based groups grilled took turns in grilling Defense Secretary and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzalez, accusing that the latter as the mastermind, if not, one of the key security officials who gave the order to abduct and torture the 43 doctors and health workers.

In a joint statement, Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), John Milton Lozande of Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura, Cherry Clemente of Anakpawis party list, Lito Bais, acting president of United Luisita Workers Union (ULWU), Zen Soriano of Amihan peasant women federation and Fernando Hicap, chair of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said Gonzalez is the criminal mindset behind the political kidnapping, illegal arrest and detention, and day-to-day infliction of mental and physical torture on 43 medical personnel who were arrested during a raid in a resort in Morong, Rizal while conducting health seminar last week.

“The horrible tales as narrated by the victims themselves reflect the militarist mindset of the Arroyo government, the pro-Arroyo generals in the AFP and Sec. Gonzalez—the undisclosed author of counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 1 and Oplan Bantay Laya 2,” the six militant leaders said in a statement.

“Bert Gonzalez Is Bert Gonzalez, and for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo he is untouchable and the best entities to explain why Gonzalez is untouchable is the president herself and her master in Washington D.C,” they said, short of giving a hint that the defense chief is a deployed operative of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Philippines.

The groups said any congressional investigation or appropriate probe conducted by any government agency should have Secretary Gonzalez both as prime suspect and hostile witness. The fisherfolk leader said the case of Morong 43 can be objectively face with the inclusion of Gonzalez in the investigation and list of resource persons of the Senate, in case it paves way to the resolution authored by Senator Pia Cayetano calling for a Senate probe on the controversial case.

Likewise, the six groups said the Moro 43 case should merit the immediate and unconditional suspension if not removal of Sec. Gonzalez from his two posts—secretary of Department of National Defense (DND) and National Security Council (NSC) head, being Arroyo’s chief security adviser.

KMP, Pamalakaya, Anakpawis and the three other groups said prior to the abduction of 43 doctors and health workers, Sec. Gonzalez announced the government and the military are all set to resume the campaign of legal offensive against suspected communist leaders and aboveground groups and personalities which he believed have direct and indirect connections with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing—the New People’s Army (NPA). The directive to file criminal charges against leftwing activists and perceived leaders and members of CPP and NPA took place a week before the raid was conducted in Morong, Rizal.

Meanwhile, the six groups challenged all presidential, vice-presidential and senatorial candidates in the May 2010 elections to sign a national covenant that if they win in the elections, they will avoid a repeat of Morong 43 and that the will respect constitutionally guaranteed basic human rights and civil liberties.

The 6 militant groups noted that presidential candidates Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III and running mate Sen. Manuel Roxas of Liberal Party (LP), Manny Villar of Nacionalista Party, Richard Gordon and running mate, former MMDA chair Bayani Fernando, Lakas-Kampi vice-presidential bet Edu Manzano, independents JC de los Reyes and Nicanor Perlas and Bangon Pilipinas’ Bro. Eddie Villanueva have yet to issue official statements on the defective arrest of 43 medical persons.

The groups said the same holds true to majority of senatorial candidates, and only a handful led by Nacionalista Party (NP) guest candidates Reps. Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) and Liza Maza (Gabriela) and Sen. Cayetano also of NP have sent official statements condemning the arrest and torture of 43 health workers. #

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Health Group Denounces Medical Integration as Rights Violation

contributed to The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines-The medical integration bill being fast-tracked by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) in Congress violates the fundamental rights of both doctors and patients.

Two days after the nation commemorated Human Rights Day, Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) criticized the bills pending in the Senate as inimical to the interest and rights of medical practitioners, and detrimental to the overall healthcare system.

“Are doctors who are non-members of PMA aware that there is a pending bill that will force them to become PMA members if they want to practice medicine in this country?” decried Dr. Geneve Rivera, secretary-general of HEAD.

Under the proposed measure of medical integration, membership with the PMA will be a mandatory requisite to the practice of medicine.

Moreover, only the PMA and its eight affiliated specialty associations will determine who can perform specialty procedures. Doctors who are not sanctioned but who will perform these procedures face severe penalties, including life imprisonment!

“Medical integration is an insult to the sacrifice of many government doctors and physicians in far-flung communities who have taken it upon themselves to provide the needed services to the people. Under the proposed measure, they will now have to fulfill the requirements set by the PMA in order to do the things they are already doing.”

Such proposed medical integration will eventually discourage doctors from going to either government service or rural practice. New doctors who wish to fulfill the specialty requirements of the PMA will wind up in hospitals in urban centers. Poor patients in the countryside will have less and less medical care.

HEAD also criticized the Arroyo government, particularly health agencies like the Department of Health and the Professional Regulations Commission, for reneging on its responsibilities.

“Why is government giving such authority to a private organization? Why are the DOH and the PRC allowing the PMA to establish a virtual monopoly over medical practice?” asked Dr. Rivera.

“The Arroyo government and the PMA should address the current needs Filipino doctors, especially those working under extremely difficult conditions, instead of removing their basic rights and freedoms through an act done in haste and secrecy. The clandestine nature of this bill only raises suspicion as to its real motive.”

“In the end, the greater imperative is how to enable the remaining doctors here and the entire medical community to work together to improve the health situation of the Filipino people.”####

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Satur wants “heart war” between 2 giant drug companies probed

By Cherry Pie Eggpie Sandoval, contributor

Manila, Philippines- Front running Makabayan senatorial candidate and Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo asked the House of Representatives to investigate what he called a brewing war between Philippine drug company United Laboratories, Inc. (Unilab) and transnational pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc. over the production of a maintenance drug for patients afflicted with cardiovascular diseases.

In a press statement sent to The Pamalakaya Times, the Deputy Minority Leader said Unilab filed last July 9 a petition with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) for the cancellation of Philippine Patent No. 29149 for Atorvastatin being marketed by Pfizer under the brand name Lipitor. Pfizer’s patent prevents the creation and marketing of any similar drug and essentially gives the company a monopoly hold over the maintenance drug.

Ocampo argued there is basis to say that Pfizer’s application for a patent in the Philippines is exploitative as it tends to abuse the patent system. Pfizer may be unjustly extending its monopoly on the drug by introducing minor modifications just to extend the life of its patent, a practice known as ‘evergreening.

The Makabayan hopeful in 2010 elections said that by seeking to monopolize the production and sale of a maintenance drug that is crucial to the survival of many Filipinos with heart diseases, Pfizer is doing a great disservice to the people.

“It wants its own product Lipitor to be the only product on the market, but Lipitor’s exorbitant price is enough to cause heart attacks,” Ocampo said.

The Bayan Muna solon said Lipitor costs P34.45, P39.13 and P50.50 per 10, 20 and 40 mg tablets, respectively. Since Lipitor is to be taken at least once daily, the average cost to a patient is at least P34.45-P50.50 a day. In the meantime, Unilab is marketing Avamax, its generic version of Atorvastatin at a price 30% cheaper than Lipitor: 10 mg for P25.00; 20 mg. for P30.00; and 40 mg. for P35.00.

The activist lawmaker added that the issue falls under the jurisdiction of the Cheaper Medicines Act which was enacted specifically to bring down prices of medicine and make it more accessible to the public. The law, which Ocampo co-authored, also aims to put an end to patent abuse in the industry.

“This is a case involving a local drug company and a transnational firm: a David vs. Goliath case. It’s a test of the government’s determination to reduce drug prices. It also has serious implications on the country’s economic sovereignty and how our own industries hold out against foreign competition, and how all this impacts on the public,” Ocampo said.

Insiders in the drug industry revealed Lipitor was the largest-selling drug in the world in 2006, earning its producers US$12.9 Billion in sales the same year alone. In the Philippines, it earned more than P850 Million in sales within the period of May 1, 2008 – April 30, 2009. In 2008, Lipitor sales internationally were at US$13 billion, with about US$15 million coming from the Philippines. Since the time it was launched in the country, Lipitor sales have been at US$162 million.

“Congress should also investigate reports that Pfizer and Warner-Lambert have threatened many local drugstores not to carry such medicine other than theirs. This is predatory business practice that without doubt could mean the life and death of many Filipinos suffering heart ailments. If there is truth to these reports, sanctions should be laid down against Pfizer Inc.,” Ocampo said. #

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Health group: “Empowered citizenry, cornerstone of disaster prep”

Health group: “Empowered citizenry, cornerstone of disaster prep”

By Dr. Gene Nisperos, contributor and Gerry Albert Corpuz, senior reporter, The Pamalakaya Times

Manila, Philippines- An activist alliance of doctors and medical personnel said an empowered citizenry is the cornerstone of any disaster preparedness program. ”

This, not the sham achievements in disaster management and flood control claimed by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in her State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July, is the real lesson taught by Typhoon Ondoy,” the Health Alliance of Democracy (HEAD) said in a press statement, a copy of which was sent to The Pamalakaya Times on Friday.

HEAD stressed that the collective effort exerted by ordinary people amidst the gross inefficiency of government action proves that there can be effective disaster preparedness in the country.

“Filipinos from all walks of life have shown a willingness to help as the damage brought upon by Typhoon Ondoy unraveled,” noted Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.

She said private initiatives and communal action became a social network that was more efficient and systematic in providing immediate relief than any of the best-laid government plans on disaster management.”

Dr. Rivera was referring to parts of SONA 2009, where Mrs. Arroyo boasted of government projects in areas like the Marikina-Pasig River Basin allegedly to prevent flooding. These were the same areas where Typhoon Ondoy wreaked severe havoc, thereby exposing these so-called disaster management projects as bogus.

“In a country regularly ravaged by typhoons and other calamities, it is imperative to harness the power of the people. This can be done by promoting the free exercise of their rights and freedoms, by encouraging the dissemination of correct information, and by upholding the principles of social responsibility and public accountability,” said Dr. Rivera.

Unfortunately, the Arroyo administration seems bent on going in the opposite direction. It is keen on suppressing initiatives and is against any form of public vigilance, as though to avoid its own accountability. Worst, it is suspicious, or envious, of assistance and funds coursed outside the ambit of government patronage.

But more than a week after Typhoon Ondoy, different government agencies still have to show their leadership and competence. The National Disaster Coordinating Council still has to make its efforts felt in many areas. The Metro Manila Development Authority does not even have enough equipment and vehicles to clear the trash and sludge spread over the metropolis.

HEAD believes that the Filipino people know what needs to be done, if only the government would listen.

“For instance, the Department of Agriculture should work with farmers to ensure food security, founded on tenural rights over agricultural lands and on genuine agrarian reform. Instead of merely warning against disease outbreaks and having a slew of infomercials, the Department of Health should also promote primary and preventive medicine at the grassroots.” Dr. Rivera added.

“After all, upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) and diarrhea are still the top causes of illness in the country, with or without typhoons. Knowledge on home nursing care and herbal medicine at the hands of families and community-based health workers can mitigate the effects of any natural disaster on health.”

“However, unless a vigilant and empowered populace is given its rightful place in governance and decision-making, the Arroyo government itself will be a continuing calamity to the Filipino people.”

“Given the licentious spending and unbridled corruption of Mrs. Arroyo and her cabal of cronies, radical change in the Philippine socio-political landscape is now a necessary measure not just for disaster preparedness but for the attainment of a decent life”, she added.

Meanwhile, another doctor by profession, Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chair of the activist umbrella alliance Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said Filipinos, as a people, have yet to learn their lessons well in the wake of one of the most devastating floods to hit Metro Manila and outlying provinces brought by low-intensity typhoon Ondoy that most of us had simply taken for granted.

In her weekly column Streetwise published by Business World, Dr. Araullo said she will not accept the excuses – from “climate change” to “overstrained government resources” and “unusually heavy rainfall”. ”

“Even more unacceptable and condemnable is the tack of blaming the victims, the people who built their houses on or beside riverbanks, creeks and floodways and who were washed away, for their current miserable plight”, she added.

Dr. Araullo further said: “For government to cite the record-level rainfall and other unusual weather disturbances presumably induced by climate change as the main reason for being caught flat-footed is a clear and pathetic attempt to escape responsibility and justify criminal neglect and inutility of those in charge.”

The Bayan chair said “worse, it perpetuates the backward idea that we can do nothing but cope with what nature brings, including periodic calamities that are our lot because the Philippines is located in a typhoon belt or the oft-mentioned “inter-tropical convergence zone”. Consequently, the necessary and vital measures that need to be put in place to avert disasters or at least mitigate the destructive affects of natural hazards such as storms and earthquakes are left undone or only haphazardly done”.

Araullo said it is precisely because the country is sitting smack on the intersection of a typhoon belt and an earthquake-and-volcano belt (the Pacific “rim-of-fire”) that calamities are already second nature to us. We are not lacking, then, in technological and administrative know-how and expertise on the dangers of these calamities and how to deal with them. Rather, the roots of the disasters are both historical and social.

No such thing as “natural calamity”

Araullo asserted that in truth there is no longer such a thing as a “natural calamity” anymore. Humankind has so interacted, in fact, interfered with nature, without fully comprehending its laws and the implications of his interference or even imagining that he controls nature and bends the laws of nature to conform to his will.

“It is a harsh lesson that humankind has learned from the time man discovered how to use fire and water, then steam and much later, nuclear power. Man has come to understand that the forces of nature can be tamed to make life less brutish and more comfortable, but always according to its own laws. The lack of understanding of those laws, or failure to abide by them (usually in an arrogant attempt to ignore, if not foolishly defy these laws) invariably end up in disaster”, the Bayan chair said.

The activist-columnist said the laws of nature are hard, unbending and immutable. They only appear to change because man’s understanding of those laws are unified, simplified and rendered more precise. With nature, the dictum “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is absolute and unforgiving.

“Yet, the real transgressors get away literally with murder because nature has a much more dilated time line relative to ours; the forces of nature take time – even eons – to act. But when a certain threshold is reached, all hell literally breaks loose. Most often the real causes of the disaster can be concealed or forgotten, deliberately or not, buried along with the corpses or disposed of unceremoniously along with the debris and garbage.’ her Business World column reads.

Araullo said “concretely and historically in the Philippines, those transgressors include the despoilers and plunderers of the country’s natural resources especially during the American colonial period, post-independence and up to the present time. These include the foreign corporate interests and their local partners in mining, logging, agribusiness and real estate development including their financiers and the series of supine governments that failed to protect and conserve the national patrimony”.

Unchanged policy

“Government policy is unchanged. The Arroyo regime has closed its eyes to the continuing wanton and over exploitation of our natural resources alongside the accelerating degradation of the environment. It has pushed for more and more liberalization of laws and regulations governing foreign investments in the country,” the Bayan chair said.

According to Araullo, the kinds of disaster inflicted by government policies on the Filipino people cover not only physical disaster but economic backwardness and impoverishment as well. These are exactly the conditions that create our people’s vulnerability to the effects of so-called natural calamities.

She said it is no accident that the poor are the worst hit by these calamities. The iniquitous social system is such that those who have less in life become the most vulnerable. Notwithstanding all the hype that calamities are “great equalizers” and victimize rich and poor alike, the reality is that the rich are well-protected and insulated from disaster or have the wherewithal to quickly recover most losses, while the poor, already destitute and deprived, lose everything and are at a complete loss on how to pick things up and start all over again.

“To make matters worse, the Arroyo administration had not put in place the plan and the resources to deal with even half of Ondoy’s rainfall, just as it had failed, like other administrations before it, in enforcing the laws and undertaking the measures that would have mitigated, if not prevented much of the damage Ondoy could bring,” she added. .

Araullo also criticized the lavish spending on the de facto President Arroyo’s innumerable trips abroad, the still unaccounted for millions of dollars in Overseas Development Aid intended for disasters and calamities, the corrupt-ridden government projects and the wasteful expense on government’s failed counter-insurgency programs are certainly more plausible reasons for the kind of unprecedented disaster that befell our people rather than the 12-hr, 400+ millimeters of rainfall.

Distinctly gov’t function

The Business World columnist said disaster preparedness is a distinctly government function that necessitates a comprehensive, scientific study of disaster risks and coming up with a plan on how to deal with them in all respects.

She said the government should also focus on workable plan that include measures to remove aggravating conditions and effectively mobilizing not just the government machinery but the entire people for the gargantuan effort needed for preemptive action, rescue, relief and rehabilitation.

“While past governments have their share of responsibility in failing to undertake the measures that would have mitigated, if not prevented, these disasters, the GMA regime has made the task even more difficult by destroying government credibility, which is required for any attempt to mobilize the people themselves for disaster preparedness,” she added.

Araullo stressed that the solutionis not “bayanihan”, “balikatan”, international humanitarian aid nor even private relief efforts ala ABS-CBN’s “Sagip Kapamilya”.

“The solution is to bring about a government that truly serves the people, a government that people can repose their faith and trust in and can mobilize both human and material resources to face natural calamities and prevent them from becoming man-made disasters,” the Bayan official said.

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President GMA accused of obstructing relief assistance to Ondoy victims

President GMA accused of obstructing relief assistance to Ondoy victims

by Gene Nisperos, contributor.

“Barely a week after government was caught flat-footed by the devastation wrought by Typhoon Ondoy, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo now wants to centralize all foreign assistance under her control.”

In an e-mail sent to The Pamalakaya Times, the activist group Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) charged President Arroyo of obstructing relief assistance to compel donors to forward all cash and other donations to the government.

HEAD strongly criticized the recent directive from Mrs. Arroyo that foreign assistance and donations will only be tax-exempt if these are coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Non-government organizations, cause-oriented groups, and even private citizens have risen to the occasion and done their share to help amidst government’s gross inability to address the situation,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.

Rivera added: “These groups have mobilized their own resources, both local and foreign, in order to aid victims. Why does Mrs. Arroyo want to stifle these efforts?”

According to HEAD, the Arroyo directive not only sends the wrong message to would-be donors but also raises strong suspicions regarding her real motive.

“Given the history of corruption and profligate spending intimately associated with the Arroyo administration, people are concerned where foreign donations, especially the millions of monetary assistance, will go?” Added Dr. Rivera.

The health group lamented that the Macapagal-Arroyo administration cannot even account where its P10 billion Calamity Assistance and Rehabilitation Fund went. The HEAD said rather than dampen the enthusiasm of private efforts and obstruct aid to those that government cannot even reach, Mrs. Arroyo should expand the limited and token government actions.

“For instance, more than just releasing the 13th month pay of government employees or allowing emergency loans, which will still be a burden to be paid for eventually, government should provide a P20,000 calamity assistance “bonus” to government employees,” the group said.

“This will really help rank-and-file employees, especially those whose salaries are very low, instead of dipping into their 13th month pay,” HEAD stressed. The group also said President Arroyo should also encourage private employers and big business to match this amount and provide for their workers, particularly the daily wage-earners.

“While the focus is on Metro Manila, where damage to life and property is tremendous, farmers and fisherfolk in outlying areas have suffered just as much and also require much assistance. Most vulnerable are the marginalized ones, whose lives are not caught on television or the internet,” the health group said.

“The least that Mrs. Arroyo can do is to commiserate with, rather than exploit, the misery of the Filipino people. “Those who have less are helping out because they know that these are hard times. In contrast, Mrs. Arroyo cannot even hide her disgust at the throngs who flocked to Malacañang to seek help. Her callousness is worse than Typhoon Ondoy itself!,” HEAD statement added.

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Health group scores “Euthanasia” like health budget in 2010

Health group scores “Euthanasia” like health budget in 2010

Manila, Philippines- If the 2010 national budget for health is a measure of government priorities, then the Arroyo administration is more interested in killing rather than saving Filipinos, an activist health group said on Friday.

In a press statement, a copy of which was obtained by The Pamalakaya Times, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) said the government is spending more for every bullet used by its military forces than for the health of every Filipino.

“By the Department of Health’s own admission, per capita allocation is only 252.49 pesos per Filipino per year,” said Dr. Geneve Rivera, HEAD secretary-general.

“This is 0.70 centavos per Filipino per day, much less than the amount spent per bullet of the standard M-16 assault rifle used by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” she added.

Dr. Rivera claimed of the P1.541 trillion proposed national budget for 2010, the amount allocated for health is only P33.678 billion or 2.2% of the national budget. The Department of National Defense will be getting around P73.6 billion, which is more than twice the DOH budget.

Rivera asserted that throughout the last eight years, the Arroyo administration has consistently allocated 5% of its national budget to the DND, compared to the measly 1.8% average given to the DOH.

In fact, according to HEAD, government spending on health has consistently decreased while the DND budget has consistently increased. Despite the “bigger” figure of the DOH budget for 2010, its real or nominal value (after considering inflation) is only P22.715 billion, much less than its 2009 budget of P23.666 billion.

In essence, while the DND budget will increase by P8.6 billion in 2010, the DOH budget will actually decrease by P951 million!

“So while doctors and health workers struggle every day to save the life of poor Filipinos, the Arroyo government is spending more to find new and creative ways of killing them.” Dr. Rivera lamented.

“The preferential treatment given to the AFP in particular and the state security forces in general belie any claim by the Arroyo regime that it is upholding the health and life of Filipinos.”

“While public hospitals are wallowing in their state of neglect and disrepair all over the country, the government is relentlessly waging war in the countryside. Either way, Filipinos are dying. This is euthanasia on a national scale. This is ‘merciless’ killing.” ###

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