Senate to look into Rosal baby's ‘senseless death’
MANILA, Philippines – Following criticism over the death of the baby of political prisoner Andrea Rosal, the Senate plans to investigate reports the government denied her access to immediate medical care.
Senate justice committee chairman Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III called for an inquiry into the issue, saying media reports “don’t give us the real picture, the unfiltered truth.”
Pimentel said that the investigation will focus on whether or not the conditions in Rosal’s detention cell “were up to standards.” The senator said though that the probe is not meant “to pin the blame on anyone but to look for ways to avoid such a senseless death.”
“A death is a death. Whether it was preventable or not is something else. We would like to know if there were conditions in detention, or in the hospital, that may have combined to produce such a tragic result,” Pimentel said in a statement on Thursday, May 22.
“The Senate is the proper forum to ferret [the unfiltered truth] out,” he added.
Pimentel said the investigation should be “exhaustive but very objective,” focus on the causes of the baby’s death, and find out the protocols observed during the arrest and detention of pregnant women.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of this. That’s the reason I’d like to get to the bottom of what really happened,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel is the latest senator to question the circumstances that led to the death of Rosal’s baby, Diona Andrea Rosal, granddaughter of the late New People’s Army Spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal. Senators Pia Cayetano and Nancy Binay also lamented the baby’s death, and the treatment of her mother while in detention.
The baby died Sunday afternoon due to “persistent pulmonary hypertension.” Human rights group Karapatan said the baby’s mother experienced uterine contractions on May 15 in detention but her transfer to the hospital was delayed despite a court order.
Andrea Rosal was arrested on kidnapping, murder and attempted homicide charges on March 27.
A court denied Rosal’s plea to attend the burial of her daughter on Thursday in Ibaan, Batangas. The court only allowed her a 3-hour visit at her baby’s wake on Wednesday at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) cathedral in Manila.
During the wake, Rosal confirmed that she slept on the floor in the middle of a hot, crowded jail – a 5x10 meter cell occupied by 32 inmates.
“Hindi talaga maganda ang kalagayan sa loob ng selda sa BJMP (The condition inside the BJMP cell is really bad)," Rosal said.
Maternal health, special treatment raised
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) denied accusations Andrea Rosal got poor treatment under its watch.
“She underwent physical, medical, and pre-natal examination and was in fact visited 4 times by the BJMP medical doctor prior to her delivery,” BJMP spokesperson Roy Valenzuela said in a statement.
The BJMP though admitted it did not find an available obstetrician from the hospital to visit Rosal in jail for pre-natal check-up, as ordered by the court. It also confirmed Karapatan’s claim that Rosal was made to go back and forth from BJMP to the Philippine General Hospital the day before she gave birth.
“She (was) not yet due for delivery and no rooms (were) available in PGH due to congestion,” Valenzuela said.
Senators Cayetano and Binay questioned the government’s treatment of Rosal, contrasting it with the special treatment of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. Napoles faces plunder charges for allegedly funneling millions of pesos in state development funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations.
“The right of a mother to reproductive health is universal and must be observed at all times, regardless of the detainee’s political belief,” said Cayetano, a women’s rights advocate.
Binay said, “This is clearly in contrast to the VIP treatment some prisoners and influential detainees receive from the government, who provide security escorts and allow the prisoner to seek outside medical care.” – Rappler.com