MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Senate minority bloc on Friday called for the release of activist Amanda Echanis and her month-old baby from detention for humanitarian reasons.
Echanis, the daughter of slain peasant leader Randall Echanis, was arrested earlier this week for alleged illegal possession of firearms, explosives. She was taken into custody with her month-old son.
"Jail is not a place for a mother and her one-month-old boy she is nursing," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senators Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan said in a joint statement.
"We call on the authorities to release Amanda Echanis and her baby for humanitarian reasons ASAP," the minority senator said.
State forces should have learned from the "heartbreaking death of Baby River Nasino," daughter of activist Reina Mae Nasino. The 3-month-old baby died in October after being separated from her mother, who was also detained for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
"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," the senators said.
Majority Senators Nancy Binay and Joel Villanueva also called for the humane treatment of Echanis and her newborn.
"We expect our law enforcement agencies to live up to these standards of care for newborns as it handles the case of Amanda Echanis," Villanueva said, noting that Republic Act No. 11148, or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act mandates the state to "improve its capacity to care for newborns."
"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," 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," he said.
Binay urged authorities to move Echanis and her baby to a "separate facility where she can nurse the child and where medical attention is available."
"Napaka-vulnerable po ng mag-ina. For a nursing mother, yung iwalay ang anak ay napakabigat sa kalooban," she said.
"I hope the jailers understand that mother-child separation has traumatic impacts, and exposes the baby to many risks," she said.
The opposition lawmakers underscored that allegations against the 32-year-old peasant community organizer, who just gave birth, have yet to be proven.
"While in detention, state forces must ensure they are treated humanely and accorded all their rights," the bloc's statement read.
"We also urge a speedy and truthful investigation and handling of the case of Amanda, accused of keeping firearms, just as she has just given birth," it said.
The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives also took turns in condeming Echanis' arrest and the authorities' move to prohibit her lawyer from assisting her.
“Na-inquest na siya, waiting for the inquest resolution. Ngayon, sina-sbject kasi sya sa possible interrogation ng mga intelligence units doon. Hindi nga sila pinapapasok, yung ibang mga counsel. Tapos, despite Amanda’s refusal, kinakausap siya kahit wala siyang counsel of choice,” Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas told reporters.
Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago also slammed the government for conducting the supposed raid at dawn.
Echanis was arrested in Baggao, Cagayan on December 2, on the same day authorities raided the house of Anakpawis Cagayan Valley chairman Isabelo "Buteng" Adviento in the same town. Adviento was not home during the operation.
Militant group Anakpawis slammed the arrest and accused authorieis of planting evidence.--With a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News