Only a few months after we wept a river for Reina Nasino and her newborn Baby River, another political prisoner has lost her newborn again. We condemn the violence and cruelty of the Duterte administration that has allowed the deaths of innocent children in their own hands.
Nona Espinosa, a peasant rights advocate in Negros Oriental was around five months pregnant when she was arrested on trumped-up charges by the 62nd Infantry Battalion, along with 8 other advocates including her husband, in the early morning of September 20, 2020 in Brgy. Buenavista, Guinhulngan City.
Early on, human rights group Karapatan has immediately called for her release on humani-tarian grounds, as she was in need of pre-natal care and jail conditions will be detrimental for her and her child. However, such calls were not heeded, and she has not been provided with proper medical attention while in detention.
During delivery, she had experienced labor complications and had to undergo emergency Cesarian Section. Her baby was born with a cleft palate and was experiencing difficulty breathing. Instead of ensuring “Unang Yakap” and initiating breastfeeding, the baby was immediately handed over to Nona’s family, and Nona was sent back to jail only three days after a major surgery. Nona was left with no postpartum care, while her newborn had to fight to survive without his mother holding him close.
In 2018, the Nutrisyon at Kalusugan ng Mag-nanay Act (RA 11148), was enacted to ensure facilities and services for mothers during pregnancy until 2 years from birth. Furthermore, the Philippine government has committed itself to adhere to the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders. The rules state the needs of pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, their entitlement to receive qualified advice on health and diet, adequate and timely food, a healthy environment and regular exercise opportunities, as well as their post-natal medical and nutritional needs. We demand the government to uphold such policies.
We do not forget how anguished we are at how Reina and baby River were treated. We are reminded of Andrea Rosal and her newborn baby Diona in 2014 who suffered the same fate. The cruel treatment of women political prisoners and their newborns clearly exemplifies how ruthless this government is to women and mothers who take a stand for human rights.
We reiterate our call to release Nona Espinosa and all political prisoners. We condemn the continuing imprisonment of activists and rights defenders on baseless charges, created to stifle the fight for the people’s democratic rights.