Two health workers’ groups and batchmates of Dr. Natividad “Naty” Castro called for her release, flagging concerns on the doctor’s whereabouts after her arrest.
Authorities arrested Castro, 53, on Friday, Feb. 18, in her home in Barangay San Perfecto, San Juan City by virtue of an arrest warrant dated Jan. 30, 2020.
According to police, Castro is accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention under Criminal Case no. 6527. The arrest was issued by Hon. Fernando Fudalan, acting presiding judge of the 10th Judicial Region, Regional Trial Court, Branch 7 of Bayugan, Agusan del Sur.
In a statement, Health Action for Human Rights (HARC) demanded the immediate release of Castro, asserting that Castro is a “community physician and a human rights advocate, not a criminal as the military perceives her to be.”
“Dr. Castro could have made a prominent career in medicine in the urban areas or even abroad after her graduation, but she chose to work in the rural areas of Mindanao. She set up community-based health programs, trained community health workers, treated patients, and joined various medical missions and disaster relief operations,” HARC said.
“Dr.Castro’s active involvement in health and human rights issues exemplifies her belief in narrowing down health inequalities by providing health services to rural and geographically isolated and displaced areas,” it added.
The Philippine Medical Students’ Association (PMSA) echoed the statement of HARC, saying Castro “championed the struggles of the Lumads.”
“Time and time again, our healthcare workers and [Indigenous Peoples advocates are at the receiving end of state persecution in an attempt to silence and instill fear among those who have chosen to serve the masses,” PMSA said.
The group said the arrest of Castro has “deprived the communities she serves their much-needed health and paralegal services, especially during this pandemic.”
Castro’s medical school batchmates likewise demanded that she be released from detention immediately, saying charges filed against her were all related to her work as a doctor and as a human rights and development worker.
“Naty is not an ordinary doctor. She is a servant leader actively involved in health and human rights and working towards providing health care for all by serving in rural and geographically isolated areas,” the statement read.
“We call for the immediate dismissal of the charges against Dr. Naty Castro, and her immediate release from police custody.”