“The government should act immediately as the health of Echanis and her baby is at high risk, especially in overly congested, poorly equipped prison conditions where social distancing is impossible and mass testing for COVID-19 is ignored,”
By EMILY VITAL
MANILA – Rights groups called for the immediate release of political prisoner Amanda Echanis and her three-month-old son as cases of COVID-19 were reported at the Cagayan Provincial Jail.
In its recent bulletin, the Provincial Information Office of Cagayan said that at least 17 prisoners at the Cagayan Provincial Jail tested positive to the virus, nine of whom are presently detained at the female ward where Amanda and her infant son are staying.
In a statement, KAPATID, an organization of families and supporters of political prisoners, asserted that Amanda should be released with her infant at the soonest possible time.
“The government should act immediately as the health of Echanis and her baby is at high risk, especially in overly congested, poorly equipped prison conditions where social distancing is impossible and mass testing for COVID-19 is ignored,” KAPATID Spokesperson Fides Lim said.
The Free Amanda Echanis Network also appealed to authorities “not to wait for the reported outbreak to reach a life-threatening crescendo.”
“Let compassion and a clear sense of reason based on science guide our officials, and immediately decide to release the mother and child,” the network added.
Prevent another River
Lim reminded authorities that separating a breastfed infant from his mother “is not an option and in fact is harmful and inhumane.”
The group cited recent studies showing that “children under age 1 appear to be at higher risk of severe illness with COVID-19 than older children likely because of their immature immune systems and smaller airways, which make them more likely to develop breathing issues with respiratory virus infections.”
Lim called on the government to learn its lesson from the tragic story of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino and her baby daughter River.
Three-month River died of pneunomia weeks after she was separated from her mother. The local court repeatedly denied Nasino’s plea to allow her to breastfeed her child while in prison.
“We’ve repeated several times that continuous breastfeeding is essential for survival,” she said.
Lim added that Amanda is still grieving over the brutal murder of her father, peace consultant Randall Echanis. The KAPATID spokersperson warned that separating baby Randall Emmanuel from his 32-year old mother “could sink her into depression and compound her grief.”