Six residents of Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur filed before the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) in Region XI, Davao City a complaint of “Unprofessional, Unethical and Dishonorable Conduct” against Dr. Romeo Quijano.
One of the complainants, Victoria Garrote, testified that Dr. Quijano’s written and published story, “Poisoned Lives” about Camocaan were based on lies.
Garotte, a health worker in Camocaan said that, “Sometime in the year 1997, he (Dr. Quijano) visited our community and interviewed some residents. He introduced himself as a doctor. He asked people about their illnesses, if they have any. And he frequently visited us after that.”
She said they learned later that Dr. Quijano and his daughter Ilang Ilang has written and published a story about Camocaan in the March 8, 2000 issue of the Philippine Post Mindanao.
According to that story some of her fellow residents in Camocaan got sick from exposure to aerial spraying. As a health worker she was very surprised and disappointed. “Because what I read and learned in the story were lies,” she said.
The story narrated that residents of Camocaan and their land, for the past 19 years, have been facing a slow but certain death due to heavy exposure to pesticides. Also according to the story, infants are often born sick and with abnormalities, ranging from cleft lip and palate to badly disfigured bodies. Many children are born with severe skin abnormalities. Babies die at birth or shortly thereafter. One Rebecca Dolka bore a lifeless child whose body and eyes were yellow.
As a health worker in Camocaan since 1979, Garrote assisted in child deliveries in the sitio. She said, “the residents of Camocaan are not disease stricken and the place is not a wasteland. The people continue to thrive and animals and plants can live and grow. It is not true that the people are dying due to pesticides from Lapanday. There is in fact no resident in the name of Rebecca Dolka in Camocaan. There is however a Rebecca Dulla, whom I think is the one referred to in the article. It is not true that she bore a lifeless child. There is no resident in Camoccan with the name Rebecca other than Rebecca Dulla.”
Garotte said, they filed the complaint against Dr. Romeo Quijano so that he should be held accountable for his lies against the people and against Camocaan. Being a doctor by profession he should be honest in his dealings with the people, his patients and the community, especially on matters concerning health.
The Judicial Affidavits of all the witnesses for the case were already submitted before the PRC. This affidavit presents the complaint of the Camocaan residents against Dr. Quijano. The other witnesses, namely; Marvin Dulla, Marlon Dulla, Rebecca Dulla, Bernardo Diaz and Annabelle Mangaga are scheduled to testify on two more hearings this month.
AERIAL SPRAYING BAN
After almost 30 years of aerial spraying in Mindanao, Dr. Quijano and his daughter Ilang-ilang’s article on Sitio Camocaan has eventually resulted in Davao City’s ordinance banning aerial spraying.
In April, 2005, the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (MAAS) was formed to push the ban in Davao City thru a city ordinance. MAAS documents its own experience with aerial spraying and submitted a report, The Story of Toxic Shower, to Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. It served as basis in the deliberation of the ordinance banning aerial spraying in Davao City.
The banana growers questioned the validity and constitutionality of the aerial spraying ban ordinance of the city. Two years later, the Court of Appeals reversed the Regional Trial Court decision to ban aerial spraying.
The Inter-Agency Committee on Environmental Health (IACEH), composed of various government agencies and NGO representatives, adopted a resolution banning aerial spraying in April 2009. The resolution is based on a report, Health and Environmental Assessment of Sitio Camocaan, Hagonoy, Davao del Sur, conducted by Dr. Allan Dionisio.
The banana growers and exporters opposed the resolution to ban aerial spraying and fought to expose the truth.
The ban relied heavily on the so-called Camocaan health assessment, a questionable study which has been rejected by impartial researchers as “inconsistent, inadequate, and not enough to support a recommendation to ban aerial spraying,” among other negative descriptions.
Two peer reviews made on the study by the University of the Philippines and the World Health Organization found the study “inconclusive; it has loopholes; the data is limited.”
The Camocaan study has been branded as “rigged” and “deceptive” and designed to give credence to the claims of Quijano that sitio Camoocan was poisoned due to aerial spraying of low-dose fungicide.
Banana growers presented evidence, which established that Dr. Allan Dionisio, lead investigator in the Camocaan research, and his co-researchers undertook the research with strong bias against pesticide, used environmental samples of questionable integrity and fabricated illnesses among residents.
They could not even present the alleged victims of poisoning to health clinics for treatment. The municipal health officer of Hagonoy, Dr. Patricio Hernane and of Sta. Cruz, Dr. Lorraine Ana Lindong, both said that they have not received the list of people that Dionisio claimed to be sick due to aerial spraying so that they can be attended to.
The banana growers provided IACEH a copy of their findings including the videotaped testimonies of witnesses, among them a barangay health worker, who said that they were left alone by one of the investigators, Ana Francisco Rivera, to gather water and soil samples.
Rivera, in an open forum June 3, 2009 during the People’s Inquiry about the study said that she gathered water from a fishpond and from an irrigation canal. Adela Amado, a barangay health worker, said she took the water sample from a mangrove pond some distance from the village where water from two newly developed fishponds accumulated. The study said samples were cited as drinking water.
The banana growers’ track record for the past 45 years proved that low-dose fungicide poses no risk to people’s health and environment. It is milder than table salt, coffee, nizoral shampoo or of the obnoxious and deleterious carbon monoxide which people from all walks of life are exposed daily or of the acetaldehydes, chloromethanes, dioxane, phosphates and alkylbenzene sulfonic acid in laundry soaps and detergents used daily by millions of households in the country.
A separate hearing for complaints against Dr. Dionisio and his team will also be held sometime this month at the PRC. Victoria Garrote and another complainant Bernardo Diaz, will be presented against them.