Bayan Muna on Tuesday sought a congressional investigation into the arrest of Dr. Ma. Natividad Marian “Naty” Castro whom the group said to be a victim of “red-tagging and harassment.”
In House Resolution 2496, Reps. Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna urged House committee on human rights “to condemn and investigate” the case of Castro, “a human-rights defender.”
“The Philippines has a shortage of health workers with only one doctor every 33,000 persons. There are even fewer doctors in remote areas. Amid the poor government response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the severe shortage of health workers, the continuing harassment against our doctors is unacceptable and highly condemnable,” the lawmakers said.
The three lawmakers said Congress must “defend the rights of our people and check on excesses and violations, especially in this time of crisis.”
Castro was arrested on kidnapping charges Friday by Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces intelligence operatives in Barangay San Perfecto, San Juan City based on a warrant of arrest issued by an Agusan del Sur regional trial court.
The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) meanwhile is calling for the immediate release of Castro.
The PNP, in its statement on Friday, identified Castro as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Central Committee, and head of the CPP-New People’s Army’s (NPA) national health bureau based in Barangay Libertad, Butuan City.
Health workers insist that Castro, 53, is a long-time executive director of a Community-Based Health Program in Butuan City that helped train community health workers and established health committees in the Caraga region.
“We health workers are infuriated with what the state forces did to Dr. Castro. We believe that she is innocent and all of the charges accused of her are all fictitious. Dr. Castro and other health workers who chose to sincerely and wholeheartedly serve the poor communities by providing health services to the underprivileged are very scarce nowadays,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW national president.
Reelectionist Senator Richard J. Gordon and senatorial aspirant Dr. Minguita Padilla expressed grave concern over the arrest and detention of Castro, allegedly the latest victim of government’s “red- tagging.”
Gordon urged Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra and PNP chief Dionardo Carlos to look seriously into this matter and ensure that this continuing violation of the Constitution and Carlos’ rights cease immediately.
The Department of Health (DOH) reminded authorities to follow due process on Castro’s cases.
The Manila Community of Benedictine Sisters and the Academic Community of St. Scholastica’s College also denounced the charges against Castro.