April 6, 2011


Reference:       Cristina Palabay, Tanggol Bayi convenor (0917-5003879)

Loffy Bermejo, National Secretariat (0920-4593989)



Tanggol Bayi strongly condemns the harassment of the staff and volunteers of the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE). CHESTCORE, an NGO that has been working to build community-based health programs since 1981, has observed several vehicles and individuals conducting surveillance on its office in Baguio City and its personnel.

Specifically, CHESTCORE health workers Milagros Ao-wat, Germelina Cynthia Dacanay and Rosalinda Suyam have been receiving threatening text messages and noticing suspicious men following and observing them since December 2010. Ao-wat, a social worker, is CHESTCORE’s Health Programs Desk Coordinator and Administrative Officer, Dacanay is a psychologist and the organization’s Medical Services Desk Coordinator, while Suyam is the Networking and Advocacy Desk Coordinator.

Tanggol Bayi is alarmed at these latest forms of harassment directed at the three women. We are one with CHESTCORE in denouncing these blatant violations of the health workers’ civil and political rights, and call for the termination of Oplan Bayanihan, under which the agents of the military and the state function to threaten, harass, and “neutralize” progressive organizations and individuals.

Our community health workers could just as easily have gone abroad to seek greener pastures because of the lack of government subsidy for health services and decent compensation for health workers, but they instead have chosen to serve our fellow Filipinos in the communities. They travel to far-flung areas, putting aside personal safety and comfort, in order to bring much-needed medical and training services to the poorest regions of the country with the goal of empowering them and alleviating their poverty. And yet these modern-day heroes are made to suffer injustices at the hands of the government.

Such is the case of the Morong 43, health workers from COMMED and CHD, who were conducting a health training on 6 February 2010 when joint forces of the army and Rizal police illegally arrested and detained them for ten months. Now free, the Morong 43 have filed a lawsuit against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the torture and other human rights violations they suffered while in detention.

Let us not allow this to happen again to our CHESTCORE health workers. Let us not allow injustice and impunity to prevail.


About Tanggol Bayi

Established in 2008, Tanggol Bayi is an association of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the Philippines. It is formed primarily for the recognition, advancement, and protection of the rights of women human rights defenders who are advocating for the realization of human rights.
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