February 24, 2010 in Featured
By LEAH FULLON
QUEZON CITY — It was an emotional meeting between KATRIBU President Beverly Longid and Ray-om Among, a 22-year old Mangyan who is detained in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal with 42 other health workers.
The visit was the first for Among since she was arrested on February 6 while participating in a week-long health care training sponsored by the Council for Health and Development (CHD).
Longid, an Igorot from the Kankanaey-Bontok tribe visited Among, who hails from Manalaysay, Mindoro Oriental and her “kailian” (fellow tribe member) Angela Manugan Doloricon Thursday. She was also accompanying Prof. Neil Doloricon, former Dean of the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman, who visited his wife Angela.
According to Longid, she and Prof. Doloricon had to go through the “excruciating ordeal of having to pass through tightly guarded gates in Camp Capinpin and watch anti-activist films before finally meeting Among and Angela.”
Tears and applause for first visit
According to Among, other detained health workers were tearful as they gave her a round of applause when their jail guard announced that she had a visitor. Until Longid’s visit, she was one of the four detainees who have not been visited by family members since their arrest.
A fellow detainee even asked Among if Longid was her mother. It was the first time Among met Longid, who paid the Mangyan and Igorot health workers a visit upon learning that they were among the 43 illegally arrested medical practitioners.
Far-flung tribal community
“Among may belong to another tribe, but as indigenous peoples, we are bound by our land, blood and distinct identity, not to mention that we share the same plight and struggle. Every tribe is our family.” Longid added, noting that indigenous peoples are the main constituents of KATRIBU Partylist.
According to Longid, Among shared that her family is likely facing difficulty in paying her a visit due to financial constraints, not to mention that they hail from a far-flung indigenous community in Mindoro. Among belongs to a family of 10.
One of her sisters is serving as a Barangay Health Worker in their community,
“From the nearest main road, it takes about 8-10 hours of hiking before one can reach our tribal community,” Longid also recalled Among telling her.
Discrimination in the camp
Longid warned that the state forces could be impinging on the indigenous peoples rights as guaranteed by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which the government acceded to in 2008.
“Going by the statements of the military, it seems that the health workers have not only been tortured mentally or physically but were also discriminated against on account of their distinct identity and socio-economic status, a matter that indigenous peoples are so sensitive about,” Longid said.
Longid recalled that in a TV interview, Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, spokesperson of the Armed Forces’ 2nd Infantry Division, claimed that the detained health workers generally had low educational attainment, citing this as a reason to brand them rebels.
According to Longid, Among is a high school graduate. “Does that instantly make her a rebel?” Longid asked.
“Such remark is discriminatory and insensitive to marginalized sectors such as indigenous peoples. It is precisely government’s neglect to provide basic services such as education and health that drove the health workers to serve poor communities. Now such State neglect becomes the crime of the health workers?” Longid lamented.
Milk, blanket and freedom
Longid called for the immediate release of her “katribus” (fellow indigenous persons) Among and Doloricon as well as the other health workers. She also urged the military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as communists and rebels.
According to Longid, her group will help mobilize legal, material and moral support for Among. “We are trying to facilitate the visit of her family. We will stand by her side and Angela’s as they go through this ordeal,” Longid said.
Longid, a feisty human rights defender from Cordillera could not help but get teary-eyed when her 30 minute-meeting with Among was up, and all the young Mangyan health worker would ask for were a blanket and a can of milk.
“Among, Angela and the other illegally detained health workers immediately need food and comfort, but freedom above all,” Longid said, vowing to support her “katribus” and the rest of the 43 until they are freed. # nordis.net