TABUK, Kalinga (June 22) — Military elements interrogated and harassed field staff of a Baguio-based health non-government organization while volunteers were doing community work in Balbalan, Kalinga on June 16 and 17.
HARASSMENTS. Elements of the 21st and 77th IB of the Philippine Army surround Chescore health workers in Sitio Ubel, Gawaan, Balbalan, Kalinga. Photo courtesy of Chestcore
Volunteers of the Community Health Education Service and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) were in Sitio Ubel in barangay Gawaan when elements of the 21st and 77th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reportedly interfered in their activities.
Chestcore Executive Director Dr. Ana Marie Leung reported that four health staff including a medical doctor and a nurse were then monitoring community health workers based in the various barangays of Balbalan. They were also attending to patients brought to them by the residents.
Leung added that military elements, headed by a certain Corporal Raton, surrounded the health personnel quarters then proceeded to question them.
“They insisted on getting the health personnel’s names and repeatedly asked why they were in the area. The military even took pictures. This, inspite being shown a copy of Chestcore’s official letters to Balbalan Mayor Jesse Allan Mangaoang and the Municipal Health Office,” the Chestcore head said.
Soldiers named Galera, Enriquez and 21st Company Charlie Division Commanding Officer Manaois were identified as among those involved in the intimidation. None of the soldiers were properly introduced, some of them hid their name plates, others had none.
“The soldiers were there as part of the AFP’s anti-insurgency campaign,” Chestcore learned later from the locals.
The soldiers later called a community meeting in Sitio Pipi, Gawaan where they alleged that the New People’s Army conducted a meeting in Sitio Ubel and that four of the NPAs were still there..
“This case exemplifies the labeling done under the AFP’s Operation Plan Bantay Laya where members and leaders of legal progressive people’s organizations or institutions rendering service to the people are equated to members of revolutionary organizations and thus treated as enemies of the state,” Leung said in an official statement she sent the media.
According to the statement, this is not the first time the delivery of health services by Chestcore’s staff has been jeopardized by the military based in Kalinga. In April 2005, soldiers surrounded the Gawaan Barangay Hall as community health workers were undergoing their Basic Health Skills Training Seminar. In August 2006 Mayor Mangaoang advised Chestcore’s Executive Director to seek the 21st IB’s permission before conducting a research on the health of Balbalan’s small-scale miners.
Chestcore has been training community health workers and rendering medical services in far-flung barrios of the Cordillera and Ilocos Regions since 1981.
“The harassment and interrogation of health personnel by elements of the military is an unwanted hindrance to the delivery of health services. Such actions must be condemned and immediately stopped,” the statement read. # via NORDIS