Serving marginalized communities is not terrorism
We, the Council for Health and Development, the national organization of community-based health programs (CBHPs) in the Philippines, strongly condemn the designation of Dr. Naty Castro as a terrorist and the Red-tagging of CBHP by the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC). The ATC released Resolution No. 35 (2022) during the 17th ATC Meeting dated Dec. 7, 2022, designating Castro as a terrorist and accusing the CBHP, where she worked as a community doctor for decades in Caraga, as a CPP-NPA-NDF front.
This year, we celebrate 50 years of CBHP since its inception in 1973. The CBHP was initiated by three nuns of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, namely Sister Mary Grenough, MM, Sister Eva Varon, MMS, and Sister Xavier Marie Bual, SPC. Together with other community development workers, they developed and implemented the concept of training people in rural and urban communities in response to the lack of social and health services, amidst the sociopolitical crisis during the dark years of martial law under former president and dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Instead of cowing to terror, the pioneers of CBHPs lived and worked with the poor, helping them address their health needs through skills training and basic health services.
From three pilot programs in 1973, CBHPs including people’s health committees are now more than 70 programs all over the Philippines.
For the past 50 years, CBHPs have worked with dedicated and courageous men and women who, despite the promise of illustrious careers and income abroad or in the cities, chose the path less traveled and served the poor and downtrodden. Those whose diseases cannot be healed by pills alone, but an overhaul of a public health system that fatally made health a privilege and less a right.
The ATC is so desperate to silence not just her but also all community-based public health practitioners serving the rural areas, where there is no or limited access to health care services due to the lack of government support. Red-tagging CBHPs is sowing terror and placing doctors and health workers who chose to serve far-flung areas at the risk of being harassed or killed.
Choosing to serve communities in the margins is not an act of terrorism, and neither does speaking about the root causes of inequities make one a terrorist.
We call on the Filipino people and all public health advocates and practitioners to condemn the ATC resolution, designating Castro as a terrorist and Red-tagging CBHPs.
Castro is not a terrorist. The CBHPs and the community health workers are not terrorists. Stop the attacks on community health workers.
Scrap the Anti-Terrorism Act!
Magdalena Barcelon, M.D.,Eleanor Jara, M.D.,Council for Health and
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