“Great mothers like them should be honored and treasured, not imprisoned and persecuted.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — Human rights advocates called for the release of women political prisoners in an “alternative mother’s day” program held at the University of the Philippines – Diliman May 10.
“We are inspired by the courage of these women who, though handcuffed and incarcerated, continue to profess their stand for the oppressed and exploited children and women,” Rjei Manalo, spokesperson of Free Andrea Rosal Movement, said.
Rosal, who is due to give birth this month, is the daughter of the late “Ka Roger” Rosal, former spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines. She was arrested on Mar. 27, 2014. Human rights activists believe that her only “crime” was to be her father’s daughter.
“Andrea should give birth in an environment where she can nurture her baby, in the best possible way. That environment is outside the cramped confines of prison cells, where she is unjustly detained and persecuted for crimes she did not commit,” Manalo added.
Organizers of the event also paid tribute to Wilma Austria and Loida Magpatoc, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who were arrested on separate accounts. Tiamzon and Magpactoc have two and three children, respectively.
“Tiamzon and Magpatoc are one with the Filipino mothers in their aspirations for just and lasting peace, which is why they strive, in their capacity as peace consultants, to work for the just resolution of the armed conflict in the country,” Cristina Palabay, convenor of Tanggol Bayi, said.
“They advocate for national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and a country that is free from foreign domination and control,” Palabay added.
Manalo said they should be released. “Great mothers like them should be honored and treasured, not imprisoned and persecuted,” he added.
During the program, former women political detainees shared their experiences when they were still in prison.
Angelina Ipong, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, was arrested on Mar. 8, 2005 in Misamis Occidental. She was held incommunicado for 14 days, where she was allegedly subjected to sexual molestation and torture.
On Feb 17, 2011, after six year of detention, Ipong was released.
“I would always tell everyone not to feel sorry for political prisoners. These political prisoners were detained because of their unwavering principle for the people,” Ipong said during the program.
Ipong shared that she spent no idle time during her detention. She shared how she started an organic vegetable farm inside the Misamis Occidental Provincial Jail and offered sewing services to her fellow prisoners.
“They have high regard for political prisoners,” Ipong added.
UP Professor Judy Taguiwalo, a former political detainee under former president Ferdinand Marcos, said she was detained twice.
“The first time I was arrested, I managed to escape. Some 10 years later, I was arrested again but this time I was four months pregnant,” Taguiwalo said.
She added that she shared a detention cell with fellow political prisoners. After she gave birth and was still weak, they took turns in helping wash her baby’s clothes.
“Even the great labor leader Ka Bel (the late Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran) was there to wash clothes. He was assigned to wash on Mondays and Fridays,” she said.
Taguiwalo said political prisoners are not like former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo whose plunder case in relation to the P728 million ($16.177 million) fertilizer fund scam was dismissed or Janet Lim-Napoles who reportedly had a bath tub full of cash before she was arrested.
“Women political prisoners are great mothers to the Filipino people,” Taguiwalo said.
Relatives of political prisoners also arrived to join the program and express gratitude for the support their loved ones are receiving from progressive groups.
Lala Almonte, daughter of political prisoners Dionisio, 56, and Gloria, 52, said in an interview that their family does not believe in the cases filed against their parents.
“It was a long time since I last saw Andrea before she was arrested. But I managed to visit her four times now. She is like a daughter to me. I am even her godmother,” Felicidad Rosal-Inandan, aunt of Andrea Rosal, told Bulatlat.com.
Inandan read the letter of Rosal before the program:
“It is not just me but also my child who is deprived of freedom and rights. My child also has a right that should be recognized but the state has chosen to ignore it,” Rosal said.
“I would like to ask for your support and to call for allowing me and my child to stay together as long as needed because I hope to be able to breastfeed my baby and to fulfill my role as a mother,” Rosal added.
Mothers pushed to poverty
In a message read at the program, Wilma Austria said Filipino mothers are suffering from contractualization and low wages. Such conditions, she added, have pushed many mothers to leave the country and find work abroad.
“The future of the sons and daughters of the motherland is hinged on the achievement of the people’s patriotic and democratic aspirations,” said Austria.
Motherly love and care, the mother’s will to protect her children and family against all kinds of sufferings, and the mother’s courage to defend her children and family against all forms of oppression and exploitation should not be confined within the walls of one’s home. The home of our motherland encompasses the whole country, and all the sons and daughters of the people are hers too.” Austria concluded.