Press Release
February 21, 2022

De Lima calls for investigation on the arrest of health worker Dr. Naty Castro

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called for an immediate and impartial investigation into the questionable arrest of Dr. Natividad "Naty" Castro, who initiated health programs and helped Lumads set up health centers in Mindanao.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, is concerned with the manner of Castro's arrest and how authorities treated her.

"I join the human rights community, the community of medical professionals, and the rest of Filipino society, in calling for the safety and protection of Dr. Natividad Castro's person and rights while in custody, and for an immediate and impartial investigation into the circumstances of her arrest," she said.

"I am deeply concerned with the manner of her arrest. I was shown photos of her placed in the undignified and unsanitary state of being made to walk around barefooted when her mugshot was taken. It was also reported that the arresting officers scaled the walls of her house and destroyed her door. She was also initially denied access to her counsel, her family, and her medications," she added.

Castro was reportedly arrested by the police last Feb. 18 through a warrant of arrest issued by the Regional Trial Court of Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur for alleged kidnapping and serious illegal detention. She was accused of being a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA).

Castro's family categorically denied this accusation while rights group Karapatan attested that Castro is a health worker who helped in setting up community centers and programs in Mindanao and trained many human rights workers for several years.

The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), for its part, maintained that "Doc Naty is not a communist, nor is she a terrorist," adding that it would pursue all legal remedies to secure Castro's immediate release.

The lady Senator from Bicol said Castro's case only highlighted how the Duterte government treats people who genuinely work to serve the marginalized.

"Ganito na ba talaga natin tratuhin ang mamamayang taos-pusong nagsisilbi sa kapwa at bayan samantalang yung mga gahaman na sinasamantala ang pandemya upang kumamkam ay pinagtatanggol pa ng husto ni Duterte," she said.

"Indeed, state-sponsored reprisals will always be the order of the day, and even humanitarian acts will be deemed acts of subversion, if an anti-people government and its enablers remain in power," she added.

It may be recalled that De Lima also called for an investigation into the arrest last year of women and children's rights advocate Sally Crisostomo-Ujano, who was tagged as "most wanted" despite spending the past two decades publicly working with various government agencies against human trafficking.

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