At 10 PM local time on Tuesday, May 23, the President of the Philippines, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, declared Mindanao to be placed under a state of Martial Law. In the face of this extraordinary situation, the Department of Health will continue to operate all its retained hospitals throughout Mindanao, redoubling its efforts to address any crisis that may be experienced during this period.

“DOH hospitals are fully operational in Mindanao. We are confident that our hospital personnel possess the necessary competence to carry out immediate measures, facilitate recovery efforts, and reduce the impact of any emergency event that may arise. I am calling upon everyone to be vigilant at all times and to be cooperative with efforts to deal with unexpected challenges in times of crisis,” Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial stated.

Due to the unique nature of the state of Martial Law in the Philippines, which is declared during times of invasion or rebellion, the DOH reiterates and stands by the provisions of the Geneva Convention regarding hospitals and health personnel. The Geneva Convention outlines the standards for humanitarian treatment of populations in conflict areas. The pertinent provisions state that “The wounded and sick, as well as the infirm, and expectant mothers, shall be the object of particular protection and respect.” Furthermore, the Convention states that civilian hospitals should, under no circumstances, be the object of an attack.”

As such, the DOH reminds all concerned sectors to adhere to the provisions of this Convention requiring all armed combatants to respect the nature of healthcare workers as non-combatants, subject to protection and due respect in the carrying out of their duties, as highlighted in the 4th treaty of the Geneva Convention, 1949.

The commitment to upholding the rights and protection to be accorded to hospitals, healthcare workers, and their patients in the time of conflict is key to minimizing the harm experienced by civilians during such difficult times. In light of this, the DOH calls on government agencies tasked to ensure the safety and well-being of healthcare providers and their patients to take heed of these provisions.

The DOH reiterates its commitment to promoting and safeguarding the health and well-being of all Filipino people moreso during times of crisis. Secretary Ubial emphasized that “the Department of Health will certainly not discriminate against any sector of the Filipino population in the performance of its duty, whether the patients be on the government side or otherwise, especially when it comes to health related emergencies.”