“May this turn our anguish and anger into a burning fervor to serve the people.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Progressive health groups are calling for justice for Dr. Dreyfuss Perlas, the municipal health officer of Sapad, Lanao del Norte who was killed on March 1.
Perlas was riding his motorcycle on his way to his boarding house when he was shot dead by motorcycle-riding assasins. He was 31 years old.
Perlas, who hailed from Batan, Aklan province in the Visayas, was a volunteer of the Department of Health’s Doctors-to-the-Barrios program. A news report said he was deployed in Sapad, Lanao del Norte in 2012, but he continued to serve the people in the area even after his contract with the DOH ended in 2014. He then became its municipal health officer.
Expressing their rage over the fate of health professionals serving in areas where social services are scarce, progressive health groups held an indignation rally and lit candles in front of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) on March 3, to demand justice for Perlas.
“This is unacceptable,” said Dr. Eleanor Jara, executive director of Council for Health and Development (CHD). She said doctors serving in the remote areas are few and yet they are getting killed. Doctors like Perlas are rare and should be lauded, she added.
Dr. Joseph Carabeo, secretary general of Health Alliance for Democracy called on the government of President Rodrigo Duterte, the DOH and the local government of Kapatagan to conduct a thorough investigation and punish the assailant and mastermind of the crime.
“Justice for Dr. Drey can also be served best if the government can assure the continuity of health services in the communities that he left and by addressing all obstacles to the delivery of health services including a secured environment for our health providers especially the volunteer doctors and nurses to the underserved areas,” said Carabeo.
Carabeo said the incident may have chilling effects on present and future volunteers, but they will not let the DOH use the incident to downsize further target volunteers and cut its budget allocation as it did in 2017. “Allegedly, because there are few takers,” he added.
Meanwhile, Jara still encourage doctors to still serve areas where their services are needed most.
“May Dr. Perlas’ and those who came before him inspire a new generation of doctors whose hearts beat for the people. May this turn our anguish and anger into a burning fervor to serve the people,” said Jara.