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Gov't blamed for death of detained mother's baby

MANILA, Philippines - Two-day-old Diona Andrea Rosal did not live to hear the many tales about her legendary grandfather, the late New People’s Army (NPA) spokesperson Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal.

The baby died on Sunday afternoon, May 18 due to “persistent pulmonary hypertension,” according to Dr Felix Lukban, Philippine General Hospital (PGH) coordinator for public affairs.

Her mother, Andrea Rosal, is a political prisoner who was arrested on kidnapping, murder, and attempted homicide charges on March 27. Rosal remains confined under hospital arrest at the PGH.

Lukban told Rappler no further information about the child's death will be released in keeping with the family's request for privacy.  

The military consider the baby's mother as a ranking leader of the NPA in Southern Tagalog Region. She was 7 months pregnant when she was arrested in Caloocan City and was later detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City.

Government liable

In a statement issued on Sunday, human rights group Karapatan blamed security forces and the government of President Benigno Aquino for the death of Diona Rosal and the ill treatment of Andrea Rosal. 

"Their blatant disregard of the rights of Andrea, including her right to receive immediate medical care and be in an environment conducive for conceiving and delivering a healthy child, are apparent in this case,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay added that Andrea Rosal experienced uterine contractions on May 15 while she was under detention, but her transfer to PGH was delayed even if a court ordered her immediate transfer.

“She was brought back and forth from Camp Bagong Diwa and the PGH because BJMP authorities said there (was) no available room for her,” Palabay said.

BABY DIONA. Before she died, the 2-day old daughter of Andrea Rosal, a political prisoner, experienced difficulty in breathing and had seizures.

Photo by Free Andrea Rosal Movement

The detained Rosal was finally confined on May 16 and gave birth the next day.

“The baby was not crying at birth, she has to be taken inside the incubator and (was given) a ventilator,” the Free Andrea Rosal Movement described Rosal’s condition in a post on its Facebook page on Saturday, May 17. According to members of the same group who visited the hospital, the baby had difficulty breathing and had seizures.

‘Unfortunate incident’

The military denied Karapatan's accusation, claiming that the government treated the political prisoner humanely. 

"For humanitarian (reasons), the government has extended help to both the mother and the child through hospital arrest in PGH, and provided them the best hospital care available,” military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told Rappler.

Zagala extended condolences to the Rosal family, calling the incident unfortunate.

(The incident may have been) unfortunate, what is certain is that no one is above the law regardless of health condition,” Zagala said.

Zagala said efforts to blame the military for the baby's death were "unfair and callous." 

"This child is innocent and her death should not be exploited," he added.

'Heartless'

But Rosal's supporters see things differently. 

“We find the BJMP authorities, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and all government agencies responsible for the illegal arrest and detention of Andrea Rosal accountable for the death of Diona Andrea and the situation of Andrea." 

The Free Andrea Rosal Movement called the tragic and unnecessary death of an innocent child "barbaric" and "short of murder."

"Walang puso ang gobyernong Aquino para sa mga ina at anak tulad ni Andrea at Diona Andrea,” added Palabay (The Aquino administration has no concern for the mothers and children like Andrea and Diona Andrea). – Rappler.com

Editor's note:  In an earlier version of this story, we said the baby of Andrea Rosal was born premature. She was a full-term baby, according to doctors who attended to her. We regret the error and have made the necessary correction.