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Minority senators: Release Amanda Echanis on humanitarian grounds

Minority senators on Friday, December 4, urged authorities to release peasant organizer Amanda Echanis on humanitarian grounds.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, and Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros made the call in a joint statement on Friday.

“We call on the authorities to release Amanda Echanis and her baby for humanitarian reasons ASAP,” they said in a joint statement on Friday, December 4.

“Jail is not a place for a mother and her one-month-old boy she is nursing. Considering the vulnerabilities of mother and son, releasing them is in their best interest as per the First 1,000 Days Law or Republic Act 11148,” they added.

The senators stressed that the mother and child should be “treated humanely and accorded all their rights” while in detention.

“We have just witnessed the heartbreaking death of Baby River Nasino after being separated from her mother, who was still nursing her. We hope our authorities have learned a thing or two about compassion and humanity from that incident, so as not to have a repeat of an avoidable tragedy,” they said.

The senators also urged authorities to conduct “a speedy and truthful investigation and handling of the case of Amanda, accused of keeping firearms, just as she has just given birth.”

“Due process, justice, and compassion must be accorded to all, no matter their beliefs,” they said.

'Pursuit of justice need not be inhumane'

In a separate statement, Senator Nancy Binay also appealed to authorities to "prevent another Baby River” in handing the case of Echanis, and to consider turning over the mother and child to to a church-based organization or a non-governmental foundation willing to take them in.

"I appeal to the custodians not to make the same mistakes which claimed the life of Baby River. The mother and child are very vulnerable.... I hope the jailers understand that mother-child separation has traumatic impacts, and exposes the baby to many risks," Binay said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“The pursuit of justice need not be inhumane. In fact, justice demands that we protect children from the consequences of their parents’ alleged actions. Nakikiusap tayo sa ating mga awtoridad na isaalang-alang ang kapakanan ng sanggol (We are appealing to our authorities to look after the welfare of the child),” she added.

Senator Joel Villanueva also urged authorities to follow RA 11148 to the letter in the case of Echanis.

"The law specifically advocates 'the non-separation of mothers and newborns from birth early breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding' especially in the first 180 days of life, which experts consider to be critical in the overall well-being of the child. We expect our law enforcement agencies to live up to these standards of care for newborns as it handles the case of Amanda Echanis," he said.

"Our government should always ensure the right to life of our newborns and protect them from abuse, exploitation, and conditions that may harm them from living full and dignified lives," Villanueva added.

Various groups have called for the release of Echanis, who was arrested earlier this week for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the usual charge against activists. 

Echanis had a month-old infant when she was arrested, sparking concerns that baby Randall Emmanuel might end up like baby River, the infant of activist Reina Mae Nasino. River was separated from his mother and later died at 3 months old due to pneumonia complications. –