Thursday, February 8, 2018

HEAD to DOH: More dialogue, more action, more accountability

Press release: February 8, 2018

The "sudden" loss of trust in the government immunization program or rapid drop in children getting immunization is not just solely due to Dengvaxia, the Public Attorneys Office pronouncements, or even poorly informed/opinionated media slant. This may have been long time coming and the government just refused to acknowledge the signs.

For decades, the government immunization program has been implemented with little informed consent and no real information given to the public. Proper information has not been disseminated, so it has become very easy for the public to be convinced with poor or even wrong information, just like what is happening now.

If fears of the public are still not being assuaged, the Department of Health needs to do more, reach out more, and ensure that from the smallest health center to the biggest hospital, all are prepared to meet the needs of Dengvaxia children.

The people are waiting for doctors to talk to them and not just talk among themselves. If the public cannot hear our doctors, then the message might not be getting across. Perhaps it's not even what people need to hear.

In short, only by being forthcoming and acknowledging the pros and cons of vaccines will it be possible to regain public trust. More correct information through sincere dialogues at the grassroots level will be key, rather than just proclaiming expertise. Unless the DOH does more to serve and engage the people, fear and anxiety will continue to fester.##

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Address the chaos, prosecute perpetrators

Press release: February 7, 2018 

Sanofi-Pasteur, the Aquino administration, and former health secretary Janette Garin must be held accountable for the Dengvaxia fiasco, according to Health Alliance for Democracy, an organization composed of doctors, nurses, midwives, health workers and other professionals. Address the chaos, and there should be punishment for deceit!

"Corporate greed and corruption have systematically put Filipino children to harm's way," said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD Secretary General. "The haste for profit and commission has put to bad light our country's vaccination programs, which are a generally useful and a preventive health intervention."

"The parents' worries remain," said Carabeo. "They ask where they will go if their child gets sick. Would there be free treatment for those who were vaccinated? These questions remain even for the general Filipino public."

"The Department of Health must therefore ensure strict monitoring, free healthcare, and check-ups for the affected population," added Carabeo. "An extensive education campaign is also necessary, while the Duterte administration must do its utmost in holding accountable the perpetrators in the Dengvaxia fiasco. These steps will help bring back the trust that was lost for vaccination programs."

HEAD also encourages our colleagues in the health profession to join forces. Take the initiative and let's go down to communities to explain and calm down the parents, conduct educational forums on vaccination to alleviate their fears.

As long as our healthcare and drug industry are dependent on big foreign pharmaceuticals, as long as government officials prioritize profit and self-interest, the people's health will suffer and the Dengvaxia fiasco will repeat itself. Corporate greed and corruption must never triumph over the people's welfare. Therefore the struggle for a free, comprehensive, and progressive healthcare is needed more than ever.##

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Dengvaxia blunder: political consideration over sound science

The Aquino administration and the Department of Health maneuvered a P3.5 billion budget for a vaccine that now put 700,000 Filipino children at greater health risk. The decision of the authorities to procure, approve its commercial release, and implement the mass vaccination using Dengvaxia, all in haste,   was based on political consideration and not on sound science.
Gabriela organization member holds a placard in a protest action in front of the Department of Health.

Health groups and local experts have adamantly questioned all these beforehand but have fallen to deaf ears. A year after implementation, clinical trial results revealed that Dengvaxia causes severe dengue fever to those who have not contracted dengue before.

 The Aquino administration, former Health Secretary Janette Garin, DOH, and Sanofi must be held accountable for this deception. DOH must also address the fears that this blunder have unleashed. How should the vaccinated children be protected from now on? What measures will be done to monitor those at risk and provide them with the means of proper healthcare to mitigate the risks?
Protesters, whose children were vaccinated with Dengvaxia, burn an immage of former president Benigno Aquino at the gates of the Department of Health.
The general notion that vaccines are meant to protect a person from infection has been marred with this withheld information on Dengvaxia that there is greater health risk for a segment of the target population. Sanofi now tries to console the public saying that around 80% to 90% of us may have had dengue and we were just not aware! Now it is everybody's guessing game, with thousands of Filipino children systematically put in harm's way.

To the parents and children: Do not panic! Ok lang magalit. Ask for explanations! Monitor the health advisories, and consult accordingly. Exercise your right to information and healthcare. Immunizations generally remain to be an important tool for prevention. Service and patient safety must guide the discovery and eventual use of new vaccines, not politics and profit motives. The Aquino administration, former health secretary Garin, and the institutions involved must be held accountable.##

Monday, December 4, 2017

Nothing revolutionary in Duterte's RevGov

Picture this: President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, together with former presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (and her cronies and generals), Joseph Ejercito Estrada (with his own set of cronies), Imelda and Bongbong Marcos, and Aquino-allied oligarchs and cronies. This is Duterte's "Revolutionary Government," and at one glance, there's nothing revolutionary about it.

There is nothing revolutionary in a government who cradles people who have been rejected by the masses. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was under hospital arrest for rigging the elections and corruption charges, but now miraculously healed after Duterte released her. Erap was impeached due to plunder and perjury; his son Jinggoy now also walks free from the same charges as his father. The Marcoses whose corrupt dictatorship was toppled by the people are now vying for top positions of power.

A protester holds a placard during the November 30, Bonifacio day protest against Duterte's fascism and RevGov along Recto avenue.

There is nothing revolutionary in a government that chose war and conflict, throwing away peaceful and substantial solutions for genuine change, and that which will address the roots of armed conflict. Duterte cancelled the peace talks after meeting with United States president Donald Trump. Common drafts for agrarian reform and national industrialization are ready for signing by the peace panels of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front. Duterte tossed these aside and declared war against the revolutionary armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People's Army.

There's nothing revolutionary in a government that attacks and kills the people it vowed to serve, while failing to deliver promises. Attacks on human rights groups have increased after Duterte declared a "crackdown" on activists and organizations pushing for legitimate demands and changes. The president also plans to re-instill Oplan Tokhang even after the same campaign led to 13,000 people killed in just a year. Duterte's fascism only paves the way for his dictatorship.

There's nothing revolutionary in a government who favors capitalist and imperialist interests over developing our own local industries. With economic policies leaning towards loosening trade restrictions and increasing foreign ownership, plunder of our resources is imminent. Farmers will have lesser lands to till, while wages will remain low under dire working conditions to maintain the steady flow of income for these foreign investors. Duterte advocates increasing foreign investment and ownership, literally selling out the Philippines, a far-cry from his "independent foreign policy."

A true revolutionary government is one that is supported by the masses, of farmers and workers, by people who believe that change is not in the hands of a single person, but on the collective action of the masses.

The fascist US-Duterte regime is a fool to think that it can silence the woke masses through attacks and killings. It is a greater fool to think that a fascist dictatorship shall flourish while poverty and the roots of armed conflict are never addressed. The people's resistance against fascism will only strengthen under repression. With this, Health Alliance for Democracy stands with the Filipino people together with various organizations from a multitude of sectors in rejecting Duterte's fascist rule. No to fascism. No to imperialism. Never again to dictatorship!##

Duterte, a war monster – Health group

Almost immediately after President Duterte's official cancellation of the peace talks, his military has announced intensified and focused military operations against the New People's Army. The Armed Forces of the Philippines aggression will make deaths, human rights violations, displacements and illnesses of civilians a certainty that will burst whatever Christmas spirit people hold on to in this crisis-laden year. 

An effigy of President Duterte with US President Trump on his back at the November 30, Bonifacio day protest against Duterte's fascism and RevGov.

Duterte officially canceled the peace talks on November 24, despite the supposed talks in Norway set at November 25 to 27. Common drafts on agrarian reform and national industrialization are already up for signing: these could have addressed the roots of armed conflict and lead to a just and lasting peace.

Duterte has also declared war against what he called "terrorists," ordering a crackdown on "reds" and "leftist fronts." These labels however can be applied to anyone, much like the "drug addict" label of his war on drugs, which had left 13,000 people killed in a year. Similarly, former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's counter-terror policies implemented then by General Hermogenes Esperon (now a cabinet member of Duterte) left a bloody record of tortured, missing, and dead activists and human rights defenders (120 extra-judicial killings a year). Duterte is set to beef up his disastrous human rights record.

Fascism worsens by the minute under the US-Duterte regime. In the face of a fascist dictatorship, the people have no other choice but to resist (a healthy choice in an ailing system). Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) is an organization composed of health professionals, health workers, health science students, and health advocates in the Philippines and abroad.##

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Police outdid themselves: Injured 123 on anti-Trump protest

Police forces injured hundreds in a violent attempt to disperse anti-Trump protesters along Taft Avenue, November 13. The first-aid team pegged the total number of assisted injured protesters at 123. On the previous day, around 20 protesters have been injured in a similar brutal dispersal. Injuries included head contusions, open head wounds, possible fractures, and bruises.

A severe case of a 24-year-old woman has been documented. She took a water cannon blast directly on her left ear, added with four head contusions as policemen hit her with their truncheons multiple times. She lost balance and started vomiting. She was taken to the Philippine General Hospital for further treatment after she was given first-aid.

The series of violent dispersals clearly show the fascist nature of the Duterte administration. Aside from the usual water cannons and violence, reports say that the police used a sonic weapon called LRAD. Attack on protesters intensified as President Duterte met with US President Donald Trump.
The Duterte administration's economic policies show dependence to the United States, China, and Russia on unequal terms, whereas political actions now show subservience to the whims of these countries. This dependence and subservience is characterized by years of US military encroachment, economic liberalization, plunder of natural resources, cheaper labor, and privatization of social services such as health.

Filipinos therefore mourn the death of Duterte's independent foreign policy, while these imperialist countries feast on its corpse. On simpler terms, he has sold the interests of the masses, along with his promises and the people's aspirations, to foreign imperialist interests.

The US-Duterte regime must be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Health Alliance for Democracy stands with other sectors of society in showing fury against this fascist government. No to fascism! No to imperialism! No to fascist war against the Filipino people!##

Monday, November 13, 2017

Health groups say: Ban Trump!

Manila – Health groups under Health Alliance for Democracy joined thousands of Filipinos in the call to #BanTrump as they marched to the Philippine International Convention Center, the venue for ASEAN Summit 2017, November 13.

As the new CEO of capitalist interests, Trump's tour ensures US dominance in the Asia-Pacific region by pushing for economic policies if not by military might. These policies which include the privatization of health care and other basic social services have been detrimental to Filipinos.

The quagmire of overproduction and growing debt among US, China, Russia, and other big imperialists necessitates their expansion in Asia; the ASEAN Summit is the perfect venue to pull the Philippines into it. Despite the aggrandized commercials through dominant media channels, 50 years of ASEAN failed to deliver. "Inclusive growth" has been elusive since its conception, a sugar coat on top of bitter years.

Also included in the ASEAN Summit agenda is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP, a free trade agreement with China's interests at its core. Its contents are shrouded in secrecy (just like the US-led TransPacific Partnership) and hidden from public scrutiny, as top businessmen and world leaders talk about the future of the Asia-Pacific region, in other words, controlling the market for their profit.

HEAD therefore remains steadfast in its commitment to resist policies and foreign interventions aiming to push our people deeper into poverty and illness and worse, make profit out of our ill health. No to privatization! No to unfair economic policies! No to RCEP! Ban Trump!##

Police hit protesters in anti-Trump rally

MANILA – Around 20 protesters suffered injuries in an anti-Trump rally on the same day the US president arrived in the country, according to health group Health Alliance for Democracy.

Police fired water cannons and hit protesters with truncheons and shields, who sustained deep lacerations, abrasions, and blunt trauma. Five were brought to the hospital with three sustaining head injuries.

Photo by Kathy Yamzon
"We condemn this latest act of police brutality," said HEAD secretary-general Dr. Joseph Carabeo. "Every Filipino has the right to oppose the peddling of their country to salivating foreign interests."

Protesters composed of farmers, workers, urban poor, and indigenous people marched towards the US embassy in a wave of protests as US President Trump is set to talk with President Duterte during the ASEAN Summit meetings.

Their agenda will include the strengthening of US military intervention through deployment of more US troops in the Philippines, and further liberalization of the economy to lower wages, plunder resources. and privatize social services for Filipinos.

"We ought to ask: at the end of the day, who are Duterte and his police really protecting and serving?"

"This violent reaction of state forces to groups exposing the government’s subservience to US agenda is evidence that it is not the Filipino," Carabeo ended.##

Monday, October 30, 2017

Recycled incoming DOH Sec should answer for past scams

Recently appointed Department of Health Secretary Francis Duque III should be made accountable for his past shenanigans, health workers under Health Alliance for Democracy said Monday.

HEAD's spoof version of the PhilHealth ID Card that was distributed by the Arroyo administration during the 2004 presidential elections. Recently appointed DOH secretary Duque was also secretary then.

As PhilHealth president before becoming DOH secretary under Gloria Arroyo, Duque used PhilHealth as a tool for political patronage. First, there were accusations that up to PHP 530 million-worth of OFW-contributed health insurance funds were diverted to PhilHealth. Duque had reassured then President Arroyo that it "will have a significant bearing on the 2004 elections."

PhilHealth cards were then distributed to indigents when Arroyo campaigned for the 2004 presidential elections. The cards bore Arroyo’s picture, which only had a one-year validity.

"Duque’s return to DOH concurs with the reappointment of other Arroyo-era officials and generals. This signals Arroyo's complete restoration into Filipino politics, despite a corruption-laden and repressive presidency," said HEAD secretary-general Dr. Joseph Carabeo.

Meanwhile, Duque's tenure in DOH was marked by a "medical tourism" campaign, which sought to make the country a leisure and wellness hub for government revenue and as a "solution" to the country's brain drain of health professionals. 

"He offered cheap medical services to foreigners, but none to his poor and ailing countrymen," remarked Carabeo. "He had no insight that health professionals were leaving because of low wage and appalling work conditions."

The medical tourism campaign was further used to justify the corporatization of public hospitals such as the National Kidney Transplant Institute and the Lung Center of the Philippines. These hospitals now see higher prices for admission and services.

The return of Duque in DOH signals plague, not change. The epidemic of corruption infects the healthcare system under Duterte's watch. We therefore call on the health sector to intervene and stop this contagion. Through our collective action, we demand for DOH and MalacaƱan to hold Duque accountable for his past crimes and listen to the heed of the health sector for a free, comprehensive, and progressive healthcare.##

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Land monopoly is government's war on rural poor – health group

Press release: October 25, 2017

Farmers in the countryside bear the brunt of hunger and poverty caused by the government's fraudulent land reform program, which sees its 45th year today, according to Health Alliance for Democracy.

"Nine of ten farmers do not own the land they till. Most endure uneven share agreements with landlords, while their crops are bought cheap. Farmworkers suffer from unfair and hostile work conditions on top of low wage. This framework hurls farmers, who compose 75% of our population, towards hunger, poverty, malnutrition, and sickness" said Dr. Joseph Carabeo, HEAD Secretary General.

"The government insists on the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program as its cure-it-all, but with its high amortization rates, it only takes away land from farmers instead of distributing it," Carabeo said. "Add this to land-use conversion and it becomes apparent that the government does not intend to distribute land at all. The Duterte administration's policies, a mere copy of the previous administrations, have been failing and will continue to do so."

"And instead of addressing the just and humanitarian needs of farmers, the government resorts to fascism," added Carabeo. Farmers who fight for their right to till experience harassment from state forces or murdered. From July 2016 to September 2017, 91 farmer leaders and activists have been killed.

"The most obvious solution remains elusive: genuine agrarian reform and the free distribution of lands," added Carabeo. "The Philippines' naturally rich soil and ideal climate for agriculture are keys to solving widespread hunger and poverty, and in turn malnutrition. Agriculture as the foundation of enterprises will ensure food sustainability and social services and will bring forth employment, new industries, and infrastructure."

HEAD therefore encourages the Filipino people to support the farmers' struggle for their right to till and free distribution of land. The realization of genuine agrarian reform will help uplift the lives of Filipinos in both short and long terms. We must eject and expose the anti-poor, anti-farmer, and especially the fascist policies of the US-Duterte regime! ##