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Doctors’ group backs Robredo’s bid

Pia Lee Brago - The Philippine Star
Doctorsâ group backs Robredoâs bid
Vice President Leni Robredo speaks with reporters at the Quezon City Reception House on October 10, 2021.
Philstar.com / Xave Gregorio

MANILA, Philippines — More physicians and health care workers in the country are actively engaging in voting advocacy, refusing to be “fence sitters” in the election of new leaders and unafraid to take a stand and support Robredo’s presidential bid.

Dr. Winlove Mojica, a clinical associate professor at the Department of Dermatology of the Philippine General Hospital - University of the Philippines and officer of the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against Covid-19 (HPAAC), said yesterday that COVID-19 has placed extreme demands on health care workers who faced genuine threats to their own physical safety and indirectly to that of their families.

Mojica said these challenges moved them to support a candidate who carefully makes decisions based on science and who is truly concerned for their welfare.

“There was support from the government, but not enough. There were a lot of missteps. So now, the Doctors for Leni decided that we no longer want to be fence-sitters,” Mojica said in Filipino during the Vice President’s weekly radio program BISErbisyong Leni.

With the COVID-19 pandemic causing such an impact on their lives as health care professionals, he said they consider the chance to elect the next president in May 2022 as the “fight of our lives.”

“It’s been taught in medical school to always be in the middle; always listen but never take a stance. But now, there are more who realize that health is political,” Mojica said.

Meanwhile, human rights group Karapatan and activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) renewed their call to abolish the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and expressed dismay over Vice President Leni Robredo’s support for its anti-insurgency mandate.

In a statement released over the weekend, Karapatan expressed its “disappointment” that Robredo was “supporting the functions and mandates of NTF-ELCAC and the whole-of-nation approach of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in its counterinsurgency campaign.”

On Friday, Robredo said she supports the NTF-ELCAC mandate to end insurgency in the country, but opposes the task force’s “careless” red-tagging. This was in contrast to her earlier statement calling for the defunding and abolition of the task force.

Karapatan said its stand for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC is not only grounded on red-tagging of perceived enemies of the government, but mainly because of the task force’s “predominantly militarist approach” to combat insurgency, which “makes no distinction between combatants and civilians.”

“For the Vice President’s information, this policy has resulted in 421 individuals killed since July 2016, including peasants, workers, indigenous people, women, human rights defenders, church and media people, and lawyers, among others,” it said.

Karapatan said that because of the NTF-ELCAC, which was created under Executive Order No. 70 in December 2018, a total of 4,000 individuals have been illegally or arbitrarily detained based on trumped-up charges, including women, elderly and the terminally ill.

In a separate statement, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes described the military’s “whole of nation” approach to fight insurgency as a “de facto Martial Law” because of how the military reigns supreme over civilians.

“Red-tagging is not the only problem with the continued operation of the NTF-ELCAC but also the extrajudicial killings, illegal arrest, forced surrender, torture, surveillance and other human rights abuses. Human rights violations have become rampant since the creation of the NTF-ELCAC,” Reyes said in Filipino.  – Elizabeth Marcelo, Gilbert Bayoran

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