“There is no truth that I was released because my case went through a democratic process. If so, there should have never been a case against me. I should not have been imprisoned. And my daughter would not have died.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
IBAAN, Batangas – Her relatives and supporters stood a good distance as Andrea Rosal sat in front of her daughter’s grave at the municipal cemetery here. Baby Diona Andrea died in May 2014, but Rosal was visiting her tomb for the first time.
“She would have been a year old by now,” Rosal told the media.
Rosal, daughter of the late Communist Party of the Philippines spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, was seven months pregnant when she was arrested last year. She gave birth while in detention, but her child Diona Andrea died after two days. Rosal blamed this to the dire conditions in jail, where she should have never been in the first place.
The court denied her petition to bury her daughter, and instead granted her a three-hour visit to her daughter’s wake at the National Cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, a church just in front of the hospital where she gave birth and was eventually confined due to complications.
Recently, Rosal walked free when the last of the two charges against her were dismissed. But her freedom is bittersweet without her daughter. Her quest for justice is not just about getting back at those who filed trumped-up cases against her, but for the death of her daughter as well.
“There is no truth that I was released because my case went through a democratic process. If so, there should have never been a case against me. I should not have been imprisoned. And my daughter would not have died,” said Rosal, who also celebrated her 33rd birthday Sept. 23 in a protest.
After Rosal’s release, Armed Forces of the Philippines Public Affairs office Chief Col. Noel Detoyato was quoted in a report saying, “At least nakikita natin na buhay ang demokrasya. Meron silang pagkakataon na ipagtanggol ang kanilang mga sarili.” (At least we see that democracy is alive. They have the opportunity to defend themselves).
Though the mark on her baby’s grave also has the name of her late father, Rosal clarified that Ka Roger’s remains have yet to be transferred there.
“I thought it would be easy to have it transferred here. But it is not. We hope that one day it would happen and I really want it to be soon. But at least for now, people have a place to go to if they want to pay respects to him,” said Rosal, who was wore a white shirt with her father’s stylized photograph.
In October 2011, the CPP announced that Ka Roger had passed away, his failing health finally gave in to the fourth and last stroke. The announcement came four months after he died in June, as intense military operation prevented his unit from bringing the sad news to his daughters. His burial site remains undisclosed.
Since her release, Rosal has been at the forefront of several protests, sharing her experience, how she lost her baby, and calling for the release of her fellow political prisoners. In a picket outside the Department of Justice last week, even journalists failed to resist having a selfie with Rosal, who is often teased for looking so much like her father.
Joining Rosal is Rolando Laylo, a political prisoner who was released on Aug. 29, after five years in detention. All 18 charges against him, 14 of which were murder, were dismissed.
“I am happy for them. At the same time, I also feel jealous that they are already free,” jested Ching Montajes, mother of Maricon, a political prisoner in Batangas provincial jail. Maricon has been incarcerated for the past five years, along with two other activists, Romiel Cañete and Ronilo Baes.
On Sept. 23, the Rosario Regional Trial Court Branch 87 terminated the prosecution’s presentation of evidence for their petition for bail and submitted it for resolution. One of their lawyers Mario Pangilinan told Bulatlat.com he is confident that the bail for the three young activists, known as the Taysan 3, would be granted.
Rosal noted in her speech during the protest outside the court that it is painful to hear that while the two of them were recently released, two political prisoners were inside hearing their case.
The Aquino government has long denied that there are political prisoners in the country. But human rights group Karapatan said there are currently 530 political prisoners in the country.