Doctors, health workers, colleagues push for Doc Naty Castro’s freedom
By Anne Marxze D. Umil
MANILA, Philippines – Doctors, health workers, development workers and colleagues of community physician Naty Castro reiterated their calls for her release as they gathered on Monday, February 21 at the University of the Philippines in Manila .
UP-Philippine General Hospital, Dr. Gerardo Legaspi voiced his support in calling for Castro’s release. “We are fighting for our fellow health worker who has chosen to serve in remote areas,” he said at the press conference.
Castro was arrested on February 18 and later airlifted to Agusan del Sur. She is now detained at the Bayugan Police Station. Authorities claimed that Castro was a high-ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army.
“She’s a community doctor and human rights advocate,” said Julie Caguiat, Castro’s teammate and friend at UP-College of Medicine.
St. Scholastica College President, Sr. M. Cristine Pinto, OSB said, “It is unfair that one who has chosen to live in places that are unreached by the services that every human being is entitled to ; the one who committed her life to give life to others, is now deprived of her right to life.
Castro is an alumnus of St. Scholastica’s College and UP Manila.
Dr. Reginald Pamugas, Secretary General of Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR), said there is a trend of red-marking, arrests and killing of doctors and health workers in the country. “Physicians who provided medical care to the underserved, such as Dr. Dreyfus Perlas, Dr. George Repique, Dr. Avelex Amor, Dr. Mary Rose Sancelan, and Zara Alvarez, were government physicians; but were senselessly killed for standing up for compassion for the poor, integrity and honesty in government service,” Pamugas added.
READ: People’s Doctors
Why does Castro serve in Mindanao?
Caguiat, also a community doctor, said that since college their hearts have been in community work. Until they finished their medical studies, they decided to join the Community Medicine Foundation where they were deployed to Mindanao.
“As Executive Director of the Community Health Program (CBHP) in Butuan, Agusan Norte, Dr. Naty provided lifesaving health services to remote communities and trained thousands of volunteer Community Health Workers (CHWs) to educate them and treat basic illnesses. illnesses of their family and community. Some of the CHWs are active as paramedics and frontliners in their communities in the time of COVID 19, teaching, organizing and caring for their neighbors and family groups and clusters,” Caguiat said.
Bayan Muna representative Eufemia Cullamat also said Castro helped her community in Surigao del Sur.
“She gave us training on common diseases and how to keep our environment clean to avoid disease,” Cullamat said, adding that they also learned how to plant nutritious crops to prevent disease.
This is why they are outraged by Castro’s arrest saying that their communities in remote areas are not even reached by government health services. She said the lessons they learned from Castro made their lives better as Lumad. “Did people who help the poor, especially professionals like doctors, deserve to be treated this way?” Cullamat asked.
Caguiat admitted they weren’t surprised but still furious at what happened.
“That’s what we fear, even before because there are a lot of threats and harassment,” said Caguiat, who also worked with Castro in Mindanao. She said they knew they were being watched.
Pamugas urged the Ministry of Health “to protect frontline doctors, especially those who have responded to the government’s call to serve in isolated and remote communities.”
Meanwhile, Castro’s brother Jun expressed his family’s gratitude to everyone who supports his sister. (davaotoday.com)