On January 30, 2023, the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC) officially designated Natividad Castro or Dr. Naty, a community doctor and health worker, a terrorist.
According to ATC’s Resolution 35, “Verified information, sworn statements, and other evidence gathered by Philippine law enforcement and security agencies, affirmed that [Castro] violated Sections 6, 10, and 12 of the [Anti-Terrorism Act].”
The ATC stated Dr. Naty participated in the planning, training, preparing, and facilitating “the commission of terrorism and recruitment” to support alleged terrorist organizations.
ATC asserted Dr. Naty’s supposed involvement with the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front-New People’s Army (CPP-NDF-NPA).
Allegedly, Dr. Naty has an “active role” in achieving the objectives of said group, is a member of its central committee, and manages its funds.
This is a dangerous allegation as we know that red-tagging concretely risks people’s lives.
However, this was not the first time the state has attacked Dr. Naty.
Just last February 2022, she was arrested by the San Juan City police from their home. The warrant of arrest was issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 7 in Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur.
According to the PNP, the doctor’s arrest was based on the case of kidnapping with serious illegal detention charged against her.
The PNP also carelessly tagged Dr. Naty as an alleged central committee member of the CPP-NPA as well as the alleged head of its National Health Bureau. She was detained for more than a month before she was released.
While the doctor is not new to being endangered because of red-tagging, why is she being red-tagged in the first place?
Dr. Naty is a community doctor, a public health practitioner, and a human rights worker.
She worked as a doctor at the Community-Based Health Program-Butuan Incorporated (CBHP) which aims to serve rural and urban poor areas through health programs from NGOs.
Dr. Naty has served poor Agusan communities in Mindanao for more than two decades. She made sure to go to isolated areas and provide her service.
More so, Dr. Naty is also known as a development worker and human rights defender as she was the secretary-general of Karapatan Caraga and fought against development aggression targeting the Lumad communities.
Looking at what Dr. Naty has dedicated her life to, we must realize that she does not only provide service or defense to the communities she works with.
She gives them care, care that undoubtedly strengthens communities. To nurture, tend to, and care for the most remote communities is a generous decision.
However, the state has decided to arrest her last year and designate her as a terrorist now.
This begs the question then, what is a terrorist?
Objectively, a terrorist is a person who uses violence, mostly against civilians, to cause fear and to achieve a political goal.
Simply looking at its root word, a terrorist incites terror, a crippling fear in a wide audience.
If we look at Dr. Naty, she is the complete opposite of a terrorist.
Instead of inciting terror, she inspires care in communities; instead of fighting against them, she fights with them.
How can a public healthcare worker and a human rights defender be a terrorist when these labels and identities beg them to serve the people?
How come that the state is calling someone who has attended to the most neglected, the ones who are not able to access healthcare, a terrorist?
As we know, red-tagging is unfortunately a common practice in the Philippines.
In fact, it is so prevalent that we’ve coined a specific term for it.
And most often than not, the practice targets those who choose to serve the marginalized and engage in activism to achieve a more just society.
We have seen this countless of times, whether you’re a human rights worker, an alternative media outlet, a student leader, an artists’ collective, a people’s lawyer, a community doctor, demonstrating care for the people triggers the authorities to call you a terrorist.
This designation though says more about the red-taggers’ values than the red-tagged.
If those who have been officiated to serve the general public see the exercise of care as a threat, what does that say about them?
Red-tagging must not be taken lightly as it has already compromised many people in the past.
Many who had care at the core of their mission, of their being, have been tortured and killed because of this practice.
In a country where the blood of those who serve are shed, the semantics matter largely.
This Valentine’s Day, we must remember that loving and serving the people is not terrorism.
Care does not equate to terror.
Dr. Naty is not a terrorist, and we stand with her.
We stand with everyone who is fighting the good fight. After all, the greatest love of all is built on care.
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