Filipino medical workers call for justice for HCWs colleagues subjected to violence

June 5, 2022 - 4:31 PM
Image by Ashkan Forouzani via Unsplashed

Calls to protect health care workers subjected to violence in the Philippines were made in a correspondence published in an international journal.

The correspondence titled “Violence against health-care workers in the Philippines” was published in The Lancet, a peer-reviewed journal, on May 28.

Michelle Ann Eala, a doctor who co-wrote the report, shared it on Twitter.

“Since 2017, at least 10 doctors have been violently killed in the #Philippines. We call on our leaders to act with commensurate urgency in serving justice for our HCWs,” Eala said.

The Lancet also shared it on its Twitter account.

@MichelleEalaMD and colleagues call for justice for Filipino health-care workers subjected to violence,” the tweet reads.

In the correspondence, Eala and the rest of the authors called the growing impunity and violence against health care workers, especially deaths in the country as “abhorrent and unacceptable.”

“All forms of harm maliciously inflicted upon health-care workers are abhorrent and unacceptable, especially when they result in the irreversible termination of a life,” they said.

“Beyond being seen as human resources, health-care workers deserve dignity, safety, and security; to only call them heroes or appeal to their patriotism is paltry lip service and simply does not do enough,” they added.

They also lamented the lack of resolution to address numerous cases of these attacks and the environment that failed to provide justice to their grievances.

“More so, the enabling environment for health-care workers to organize themselves to seek redress for even the most basic of grievances, much less actively pursue justice for fallen colleagues, leaves much to be desired,” the authors said.

For these reasons, they called on the country’s leaders “with commensurate urgency” for the health care workers’ justice and protection.

“We call on our leaders to act with commensurate urgency in serving justice for our health-care workers, and in safeguarding health-care workers against both explicit and surreptitious harm. The murder of a life spent in service of the underserved should be unsettling, and should lead to concrete reform, accountability, and justice, especially by people and institutions in power,” they said.

“We ask the international health community for solidarity in support of this call,” they added.

Incidents of violence

Eala and the authors stated that since 2017, at least ten doctors have been killed under the current administration. Of these deaths, they noted that six were killed in 2017.

Below are the incidents of killings and red-tagging that they mentioned in the correspondence:

  • Mary Rose Sancelan, a city health officer in Negros Oriental, and her husband during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020
  • Raul Andutan, a surgeon and medical director in Cagayan De Oro, in December 2021
  • The Alliance of Health Workers, accused as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines

The authors attributed the escalation of violent acts to the passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and the government’s “militarized COVID-19 response.”

“Amid the pandemic, nurses were evicted for fears of spreading the virus, and an ambulance driver accused of endangering the community was shot for parking in a residential area. The escalation of offenses eventually prompted the creation of the Mandatory Protection of Health Workers, Frontliners, and Patients Act,” they said.

The authors further explained the consequences of such violence to public health in the country.

“The absence of security creates medical deserts, depriving entire communities of health care, and causing severe and lasting disruptions to public health across the archipelago. The indirect consequences of violence against health-care workers are thus diffuse and insidious, but might assume disastrous proportions,” they said.