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MANILA, Philippines – The University of the Philippines (UP) Manila and St. Scholastica’s College (SSC) have called on the government to uphold rule of law following the arrest of their alumna Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro on Friday, February 18, over “alleged criminal actions.”
“We are all concerned in the UP Manila, including the UP College of Medicine and the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), that another practicing doctor in the underserved areas where we we have asked graduates to serve is again being maligned and red-tagged,” UP Manila said in a statement on Sunday, February 20.
“We still remember the sadness and anger [over] the deaths of our own graduates: Dr. Bobby dela Paz, Dr. Johnny Escandor, and Dr. Lou Tangco. We pray that this does not happen to Dr. Naty. May justice be served and her rights under rule of law be respected and upheld,” the university added.
The statement was signed by UP Manila chancellor Carmencita Padilla, College of Medicine dean Charlotte Chiong, PGH director Gerardo Legaspi, and UP Medical Alumni Society president Ma. Cristina Crisologo.
UP Manila said that Castro was practicing what the university has envisioned for its graduates: to be community-oriented using “the primary healthcare approach intended for the underserved.”
“Dr. Naty has dedicated her medical career to providing health services to the poor people in the rural areas of Agusan and other parts of Mindanao as their community physician since 1996 after her graduation,” UP Manila said.
In a separate statement on Friday, SSC condemned the arrest and said it was “ridiculous” to accuse Castro of such charges.
“It is ridiculous to accuse Dr. Naty of kidnapping and illegal detention of those she is helping and whose human rights she is defending. It is unjust that one who has chosen to live in places that are not reached by the services that every human being is entitled to receive; one who has committed her life to give life to others, is now deprived of her right to life, a life that she has lived witnessing to Christ’s love and compassion,” the educational institution said in statement posted on its official Facebook page.
Castro was the high school valedictorian of SSC Manila batch 1986 and was among the 100 most outstanding students of the educational institution in the last century. She graduated cum laude with a degree in Zoology at the UP Diliman, then later on at the UP College of Medicine in 1995.
Prior to her arrest, Castro had been red-tagged for her human rights advocacy, according to her brother. She served as secretary general of rights group Karapatan in Caraga region.
Before the pandemic began in March 2020, Castro started several health programs in Mindanao. She also brought a member of the Lumad community to the United Nations in Geneva to seek help against harassment in Lumad areas.
The Philippine National Police confirmed Castro’s arrest and tagged her as an alleged central committee member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA). However, they denied that her “membership” in the local communist movement was the basis of the arrest “but her alleged criminal actions that constitute participation in a case of kidnapping with serious illegal detention.”
Castro is the latest rights and development worker arrested since the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte intensified its crackdown against dissent. – Rappler.com