“Despite harassments and threats, we encourage everyone to be strong and steadfast in their commitment to serve the people.”
MANILA – Progressive health groups condemned the harassment of one of their leaders who received death threats via text message yesterday.
In his Facebook post on Aug. 20, ophthalmologist Dr. Darby Santiago, who is the chairperson of the group Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), said, “After two HEAD press releases on the health budget and Judy Taguiwalo’s CA rejection, this is what I get. My second death threat.”
The text message from number +639322374793 said: “Ingat ka. Dumadami atraso mo,” (Be careful. You’re offenses are piling up).
HEAD has criticized government neglect of the public health system and privatization policies. His group has also criticized President Duterte’s war on drugs, counterinsurgency program and pro-big business economic policies.
In June 2015, Santiago first received a threat also through his mobile: “Isang bala ka lang.” (You’re just one bullet).
“This is definitely alarming, in view of the fact that people get killed and get brushed aside because of the ‘tokhang’ campaign,” said Santiago in another Facebook post.
Under past counterinsurgency programs, the killings of activists by suspected state forces were preceded by death threats and red-tagging.
HEAD stressed that no one has been made accountable for the killings of five rural doctors in the past year.
“These killings, along with the growing number of killings perpetrated by state forces, has become a real threat to the common people, even professionals and doctors,” the group said in a statement.
In the past 15 years, Santiago has specialized in retinal surgery. He was also the first retina surgeon of the Ilocos Cordillera Region for the past 11 years. Santiago has served thousands of marginalized patients in the Philippines in more than a decade.
Santiago is also a regular board examiner of the Philippine Board of Ophthalmology, an academic professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and De La Salle University College of Medicine.
HEAD called on its members and colleagues in the health sector to be extra vigilant.
“Despite harassments and threats, we encourage everyone to be strong and steadfast in their commitment to serve the people. Let us unite in the outrage against these threats to our colleagues. We also call on the public to condemn the brutal killings and unite in the call for justice,” the group said.