Council for Health and Development condemns in the strongest possible terms, the brutal killing of Willem Geertman, a Dutch NGO worker, executive director of Alay Bayan, Inc. (ABI), and beloved colleague of CBHPs. He led ABI into forming a health program to support and empower the farmers of Hacienda Luisita in Central Luzon. He and his staff sought the assistance of CHD in 2011 to provide basic health skills trainings for Community Health Workers (CHWs) and formation of health committees to contribute in the improvement of the farmer-communities’ health situation there. This recent killing is an affront to people’s health.
He was mercilessly shot at the back by two motorcycle-riding men inside the compound of his office in #54 Rue de Paree St., L & S Subdivision, Angeles City, Pampanga at around 12:20 to 1:00 pm on July 3, 2012. He was rushed to the nearby Sacred Heart Medical Center but died shortly after.
Aside from ABI’s health program, Willem Geertman is also an advocate. He was a staunch figure in numerous campaigns against large-scale mining, climate change, and other forms of development aggression in Central Luzon. He and his staff were tireless in conducting trainings for disaster-preparedness as well as relief and rehabilitation efforts in their service communities.
Geertman is the second European development worker killed under the Aquino presidency. Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio was killed in a similar manner in Mindanao last October 17, 2011. Both were strong advocates of anti-mining campaigns and loved the Filipino people as if they were their own.
CHD and its 60 CBHPs all over the country are deeply saddened that a dear colleague has once again suffered under the hands of killers believed to be military agents. In 2006, Dr. Chandu Claver and family were ambushed in Kalinga, Cordillera. Dr. Claver survived the attack but his wife died of fatal gunshot wounds. In 2009, two doctors were also killed followed by a slay attempt to Ronald Capitanea, a Community Health Worker in Negros Occidental in 2010. Early in February 2010, forty-three health workers were illegally arrested, detained, and tortured for 10 months before being released due to massive legal and political pressure on the Aquino government. In 2011, staff of the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE) were continuously threatened and harassed by unknown individuals believed to be military agents in their service communities, homes, and office.
CHD holds the culture of impunity tolerated by the Aquino government liable for the death of Geertman including the human rights violations to health professionals and community health workers in the past. The program of “peace and development” deceptively posed by Oplan Bayanihan is actually a blanket protection given to state military and their agents to protect big and foreign business interests degrading the environment and the lives of poor people.
His death comes one month after the United Nations Universal Periodic Review in Geneva where representatives of the Philippine government was questioned for their failure to eliminate extrajudicial killings, torture, and enforced disappearances in the country. Despite being a party to human rights instruments and international conventions, the people have yet to see a victim given justice and a perpetrator punished in the fullest extent of the law.
CHD calls on the Philippine government to immediately and thoroughly investigate Geertman’s killing and punish the perpetrators.##