MANILA, Philippines – Senator Pia Cayetano joined women and human rights groups in questioning the treatment of political prisoner Andrea Rosal, whose baby died supposedly because government denied her access to immediate medical care.
Cayetano compared the condition of Rosal with the treatment of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who is supposedly using her two-month hospital stay to avoid going back to detention.
The chairperson of the Senate committee on women lamented what she called the “deplorable condition” of ordinary inmates like Rosal compared to Napoles and other high-profile prisoners.
“When we read about how some so-called ‘VIP prisoners’ have used their medical needs as an excuse to avail of hospital detention, it pains me to hear that a detained pregnant woman may have been denied of immediate medical access that could have assured her of a safe pregnancy and could have saved the life of her child,” Cayetano said in a statement on Tuesday, May 20.
Cayetano was responding to the death of two-day-old Diona Andrea Rosal, who 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.
The senator questioned the circumstances that led to the baby’s death. “Was Andrea given sufficient medical attention in prison? Why was there a delay in her transfer to [the Philippine General Hospital] from her prison cell?”
Cayetano cited the statement of Karapatan about Rosal’s condition in jail.
“If a woman 7 months pregnant is locked up in a prison cell that is merely 5 x 10 meters small, cramped with 31 other inmates, and when she is denied access to the necessary pre-natal check-ups and tests, then we are endangering the health and life of both the mother and baby,” Cayetano said.
The principal sponsor of the Reproductive Health (RH) law said that the country’s prison system must ensure that the reproductive health rights and needs of pregnant inmates are addressed. The RH law aims to provide access to various forms of contraception and RH services to poor mothers.
“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.
“Pregnancy is a most natural state that may proceed without complications. But being natural does not mean precautions should be ignored. Pregnant women in detention should be given decent living conditions and hospital care, if necessary. Such access should not be denied just because one is a detainee,” she added.
Other pro-women legislators criticized the treatment of Rosal in detention. Gabriela Representatives Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus said Monday that the government’s treatment of Rosal violated international humanitarian laws on the treatment of pregnant prisoners of war.
Rosal is the daughter of the late New People’s Army Spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal. She was arrested on kidnapping, murder and attempted homicide charges on March 27.
The military denied accusations of poor treatment. "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.
"To blame anyone for the death of this infant is both callous and unfair,” Zagala said.
‘Allow Rosal to attend daughter’s wake’
Cayetano said that the government must conduct an investigation to determine whether or not detention facilities for women are equipped to deal with a mother’s maternal health.
She said she hoped the court will grant Rosal’s request to attend her daughter’s wake and burial.
The senator referred to her own experience of losing a child. She has said she lost a son with a chromosomal disorder and a heart problem.
“As a mother who also lost a child, I can sympathize with Andrea and the anguish that she must be going through. She should be allowed to grieve for her baby and given enough time to fully recover physically and psychologically,” Cayetano said. – Rappler.com