“The regime could afford to give proper medical care to high profile detainees like Arroyo and Napoles, why did they not give proper medical care to Andrea and baby Diona Rosal?” – Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Progressive groups condemned the government’s “inhumane treatment” of political prisoners, which resulted in the death of two-day-old Diona Andrea, daughter of political detainee Andrea Rosal.
“We are deeply saddened and at the same time enraged with the death of baby Diona Andrea, which resulted from the delayed and lack of medical attention due to this government’s inhumane treatment of women and political prisoners. Clearly, the government and its agencies are directly responsible and accountable for baby Andrea’s death. This ultimately underlines the government’s utter disregard for life and human rights,” the Free Andrea Rosal Movement said in a statement.
Rosal, daughter of the late spokesperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was arrested on Mar. 27, along with two others. She was charged with kidnapping and murder, which she denied in media interviews.
She gave birth to Diona Andrea on May 17 at the Philippine General Hospital, following a court order that granted her petition for hospitalization on May 15. In a previous Bulatlat.com interview, she said her daughter was experiencing difficulties breathing and was rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit of the hospital.
Diona Andrea, barely two days old, died on May 18, 4:20 p.m.
In an indignation rally in front of Camp Aguinaldo on May 19, members of progressive groups brought things they managed to collect for the baby. They lit candles as they pressed for justice for Rosal and her daughter.
“During martial law, I was detained on the other side,” University of the Philippines professor Judy Taguiwalo said during the program while pointing at Camp Crame.
Taguiwalo, who gave birth while imprisoned at the Camp Crame detention center, said she was appalled when she heard the news.
“Our babies survived, but this one did not,” she told Bulatlat.com.
“I am not saying that martial law is better but this goes to show that the violence that we faced back during the martial law days are the very same violence we face today,” Taguiwalo said during the program.
Taguiwalo added that it is ironic that President Aquino has not paid attention to the case of political prisoners in the country when his father Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. was charged with criminal cases during martial law.
Military, government at fault
Human rights group Karapatan said President Aquino, the military and the Department of Justice are the ones to be blamed “for their systematic hand in the filing of fabricated charges of murder and kidnapping and the illegal arrest last Mar. 27 of Andrea, who was then seven months pregnant and was scheduled for pre-natal check up.”
The group added that apart from the lack of medical attention, the court order that allowed Rosal’s hospitalization was unreasonably delayed by jail guards despite the fact that she was already experiencing contractions as early as May 15.
Karapatan added that she was brought back and forth from BJMP in Taguig City to PGH in Manila before Rosal was finally admitted on the evening of May 16.
In a statement, Gabriela Women’s Party said, jail guards may be held liable for the deprivation of medical attention under Section 5 of RA 9745 or Anti-Torture law of 2009. The group added that “international standards recognize that the ill-treatment of pregnant women in detention increases the risks of miscarriage or permanent injury towards the mother as well as the unborn child.”
Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of Anakbayan, said, “The regime could afford to give proper medical care to high profile detainees like Arroyo and Napoles, why did they not give proper medical care to Andrea and baby Diona Rosal?”
“Instead of illegally detaining and criminalizing political offenses of innocent people especially in the case of Andrea who was 9-months pregnant then, the Aquino regime should jail and prosecute plunderers like Janet Napoles and Gloria Arroyo who have done graver sins to the people and yet they are still enjoying privileges whenever they would like to have medical check-ups in private hospitals and other favors from the government. Effectively, this government is giving undue special treatment to the likes of Napoles and Arroyo,” Karapatan said.
Best hospital care?
The Armed Forces of the Philippines, for its part, told progressive groups not to use the death of Rosal’s baby for “propaganda.”
“This incident is unfortunate and we sympathize with Andrea Rosal and her family. For humanitarian reason, the government has extended help to both mother and child through hospital arrest in PGH and provided them the best hospital care available. It is a testament of the importance of their welfare to us,” Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, spokesperson of the AFP, said in a report.
He added that, “for the NPA to blame anyone for the death of this infant is both callous and unfair. This child is innocent and her death should not be exploited by the NPA for propaganda.”
Brigadier General Domingo Tutaan Jr. added the “stress” of running away from authorities could have attributed to the poor health and eventually the passing of the Rosal’s daughter.
Dr. Genevieve Reyes, secretary general of Health Alliance for Democracy, however, said in the same report that Rosal was not able to undergo prenatal check-up while she was in prison.
Rosal told Bulatlat.com that doctors at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology only asked her how she was feeling. But no laboratory tests or other procedures to check her and her child’s health were done.
“The Aquino government tries to conceal its negligence by blaming Andrea for the death of her child. Their propaganda continues to malign Andrea when it is clear that her detention, despite her delicate condition, has affected her pregnancy and consequently caused the untimely death of her newborn,” Pastor Gil Sediarin of the Free Andrea Rosal Movement said.
Edre Olalia of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), one of Rosal’s lawyers, said the treatment of then pregnant Andrea Rosal during the time of her arrest was “dehumanizing and heightened by obvious bad faith if not disregard for basic human rights.”
“She was subjected to undue stress, tension, anxiety and discomfort in infernal, humid and crowded jail,” Olalia added.
Karapatan earlier reported that Rosal was detained in a 5×10 meter cell, which she shared with 30 other prisoners.
“The struggle has now escalated into demanding justice for the debt of blood on the hands of Aquino, the AFP and PNP and other responsible agencies. We will not stop until justice is served for Baby Diona Andrea and her mother is unconditionally released, on behalf of all women and mothers who might fall victim to this government policy of political persecution.” the Free Andrea Rosal Movement said in a statement.
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap urged the court to extend the hospital stay of Rosal while she is under recovery.
“But ultimately, Anakpawis is asking the court to junk all the made-up criminal complaints hurled against her. Just like all other political prisoners; Andrea doesn’t deserve to be in jail. Napoles and Arroyo on the other hand should face justice for their crimes along with other corrupt government officials under Aquino’s regime,” he said.
The NUPL filed a motion to allow Rosal to attend her daughter’s wake and burial.
“We implore fairness and beseech the basic sense of humanity that Andrea be allowed to attend the wake of her baby Diona Andrea as well as to attend her burial to give her the opportunity to properly mourn the death of her baby,” Olalia said, “This will give both mother and child due respect, civility, and decency; as what the child Diona Andrea was not given in life, may she be shown in death.”