MANILA - A rights group on Thursday called on the Commission of Human Rights to investigate the death of a baby girl whose mother is detained for supposed political reasons in Negros Oriental.
KAPATID said nearly 3-month-old Carlen, daughter of peasant and rights activist Nona Espinosa, died last Sunday, Feb. 14, due to an infection in the lungs and blood. The child, who was born with a cleft palate, was reportedly hospitalized for a few days because of low hemoglobin count.
Espinosa was forced to give up her newborn due to her detention. Before being taken into custody, she was caring for her baby.
“We ask the Commission on Human Rights to investigate what happened and to likewise look into the conditions of pregnant prisoners and if the government is complying with the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (otherwise known as the Bangkok Rules),” Fides Lim, KAPATID’s spokesperson said in a statement.
According to KAPATID, the Bangkok Rules states that women prisoners shall not be discouraged from breastfeeding their children, unless there are specific health reasons to do so.
Last year, the death of 3-month-old infant River Nasino angered the country due to a court's decision denying her mother, detained activist Reina Mae Nasino, a chance to visit her.
“Cases of infants who died after being taken away from their mothers are of serious concern. If this happened to the infants of Nona Espinosa and Reina Mae Nasino, what about other prisoners who also lost their newborn after being separated from them?" Lim said.
"There are stories in the dark that must come to light but let the plight of baby Carlen and baby River remind the government of its obligation to prioritize the protection of the innocent. Otherwise, release their mothers to take proper care of them since there are other custodial and judicial measures to enforce their appearance in court,” she added.
According to KAPATID, Espinosa and her husband Adidas Acero were nabbed in September 2020, along with seven other peasant activists, on "trumped-up cases" in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental.
Three days after Carlen's birth last January, the baby was reportedly separated from her mother, who was brought back to jail and was sent to Espinosa's mother.
KAPATID said Espinosa reportedly only received minimal prenatal care, and after giving birth, Carlen was deprived of the presence of her mother.
“We have repeatedly pointed out the importance of keeping mother and child together as breastfeeding is essential for survival, especially for those born with health concerns. While Carlen was born with a cleft palate, Nona Espinosa could have been able to give what her child needs had they not been separated too soon,” Lim said.
Rights advocates have slammed government's treatment of political prisoners and their families. During River's burial, security details were so heightened that initial rules for the entry of supporters were revised, preventing some from going inside the funeral home.
A mass for the baby supposed to be held inside the building, was done outside instead, where police kept watch.
Reports also said that the hearse carrying River’s remains sped up during the procession, leaving grieving relatives behind. Nasino was then whisked back to jail.
The treatment toward Nasino at River’s wake to her funeral caused widespread anger, with some complaining of selective justice and comparing her treatment to higher profile and wealthier prisoners allowed temporary release on humanitarian grounds.