CSOs protest arrest of community doctor Dr. Natividad Castro

February 21, 2022

Dr. Naty Castro at the 4th National Colloqium of Community Health Practitioners and Advocates. Photo from CHD

February 21, 2022

The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) registers its indignation on the arrest of long-time community health worker and human rights defender Dr. Natividad ‘Doc Naty’ Castro.

Doc Naty is currently being held in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur based on trumped-up charges of kidnapping and illegal detention. She is accused of being a “communist terrorist” and one of its high officials. Prior to her arrest, she was a victim of redtagging and vilification by state agents.

“It is outrageous that while the country is in dire need of doctors and medical professionals to better respond to the pandemic, Doc Naty, a veteran community health worker is unjustly arrested and imprisoned,” CPDG spokesperson Liza Maza said.

Doc Naty is not the first health worker to have fallen victim in the redtagging and vilification spree by state forces which has intensified with the creation of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

On February 9, 2021 ailing community health worker Vilma Yecyec was arrested on trumped-up charges of murder. She was released on Court’s order after several months. On December 17, 2020, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, head of the Guihulngan City Inter-Agency Task Force against Emerging Infectious Diseases (GCIATF-EID) in Negros Occidental was murdered together with her husband. She was constantly redtagged by Kagubak, an anti-communist militia force in Negros island. Before this, on August 18, 2020, Zara Alvarez, a community health worker and human rights defender was killed by unknown assailants. She was a former political prisoner and was redtagged as well.

Doc Naty’s arrest came three days after the Supreme Court officially released its decision on the 37 petitions seeking the repeal of the Anti Terrorism Law because of its unconstitutional provisions impinging on people’s basic rights and freedoms. The law also discriminates against rights defenders, development workers and civilians whose political beliefs ran counter to the government’s.

The Council for Health and Development (CHD) said in a statement that the least thing the government can do is to respect human rights and provide an enabling environment for doctors and health professionals who chose to stay in the country and serve the Filipino people during a global pandemic.

“Rights defenders and community health workers like Doc Naty should be given high recognition and respect, not ridiculous trumped-up charges. We join the call for Doc Naty’s immediate release and dropping of all fabricated charges” said Maza. #