Arrested doctor not a terrorist – FLAG

Evelyn Macairan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — A group of lawyers decried yesterday the arrest of Maria Natividad Castro, saying the community doctor is neither a terrorist nor a communist.

Castro, 53, met with her two sisters at the police headquarters in Bayugan, Agusan del Sur on Saturday, according to the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).

In a video message recorded by Castro’s sisters, the doctor addressed the public and said she is ready to face her legal battle.

Police captured Castro in San Juan City on Friday based on a warrant for kidnapping and serious illegal detention issued by a trial court in Bayugan. She was secretary general of the human rights group Karapatan in the Caraga region.

“Contrary to the allegations of the Philippine National Police (PNP), doctor Naty is not a communist nor is she a terrorist. She is a health worker who has been helping those who need help the most,” FLAG said in a statement.

The group said the details surrounding Castro’s case are still unclear.

“As the records of the case are still not available because the courts are closed until Monday, she is unaware of the circumstances of the charges filed against her and the reason for her arrest,” the group said.

Police maintained that Castro is a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

FLAG said it would pursue all available legal remedies to secure Castro’s release and the dismissal of the cases filed against her.

A cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines medical school, Castro helped put up community health centers in Mindanao.

Various groups, including the Commission on Human Rights, have condemned the arrest.

Castro’s rights

The Department of Health (DOH) has reminded the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines to uphold the rights of Castro.

Like other citizens, the DOH said healthcare workers should be accorded due process under the law.

“All our citizens, health workers included, enjoy the constitutional guarantees of due process and presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” the DOH said in a statement. “We trust our authorities to uphold these rights.”

Sen. Richard Gordon expressed concern over the detention of Castro.

Gordon said if the charges are true, Castro is still protected by the Constitution, which presumes innocence, and must be allowed to consult with her family and lawyers.

“I urge Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and PNP chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos to look into this matter,” Gordon said. – Paolo Romero, Mayen Jaymalin, Neil Jayson Servallos


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