Palace to DSWD: Protect jailed peasant leader's baby

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 03 2020 04:57 PM | Updated as of Dec 03 2020 06:21 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) — Malacañang on Thursday directed the Department of Social Welfare and Development to protect the welfare of the 1-month-old child of arrested Amanda Echanis, daughter of slain peasant leader Randy Echanis.

Authorities arrested Amanda, 32, with her baby boy before Wednesday dawn for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives. 

"I’m calling upon the DSWD to take steps to ensure that the welfare of the child will be protected," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"Hindi po kasi dahilan iyon na palibhasa may anak ka, hindi ka makukulong at hindi ka masa-subject sa proseso. But it is always the rule that government will take steps for the best interests of the child," he told reporters.

(Having a child is not a reason for you not to be jailed or subjected to the process.)

Amanda is a peasant community organizer and the youngest daughter of Randy Echanis, who was killed in August.

Militant group Anakpawis said the arrest of Amanda is illegal and the alleged pieces of evidence were planted.

"We assert that Echanis was arrested on planted evidence. She just gave birth to her first child. We call on her immediate and unconditional release on just, humanitarian grounds," Anakpawis said.

Her father was killed by a group of unidentified armed men inside his home in Novaliches, Quezon City.

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In October, the 3-month-old baby of another jailed activist, Reina Mae Nasino, died after they were separated.

"Well, sana po ay hindi na maulit iyan," Roque said of Baby River Nasino's death. 

(I hope that won't be repeated.)

Heavily armed jail officers guarding Nasino during her daughter's funeral had refused to uncuff her despite pleas from her family and human rights supporters.

Nasino, a member of the urban poor group Kadamay, was arrested in November 2019 with 2 others for alleged unlawful possession of firearms - charges she said were trumped up and part of a crackdown against left-leaning activists.

In April, she petitioned the Supreme Court to release her from jail on humanitarian grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Nasino gave birth while in jail in July, but her baby was removed from her care and brought to her mother in August. The following month, her baby got sick and was hospitalized, prompting calls for mother and child to be reunited. 

Nasino did not get to see River again until her death.