Palace urges protection of Amanda Echanisâ child but stands firm on âtruth-taggingâ
This photo posted by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas shows Amanda Echanis and her baby. Echanis was arrested for illegal possession of explosives and firearms on December 2,2020.
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Handout

Palace urges protection of Amanda Echanis’ child but stands firm on ‘truth-tagging’

Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - December 3, 2020 - 6:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday directed the social welfare department to ensure the protection of arrested activst Amanda Echanis' newborn baby who was picked up by police along with his mother.

Echanis, daughter to recently murdered peace consultant Randall, and organizer for women peasants' group Amihan, was arrested on Wednesday morning, following law enforcers’ implementation of a court-issued search warrant which, Echanis said, was not shown to her.

"I'm calling upon the DSWD to take steps to ensure that the welfare of the child will be protected. Hindi kasi dahilan na palibhasa may anak ka ay hindi ka makukulong at hindi ka masa-subject sa proseso (It doesn't mean that just because you have a child, you will not be subject to arrest)," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said during a virtual briefing aired from Palawan.

In its own statement released Thursday, the Commission on Human Rights noted that Echanis' arrest "is the latest in a string of arrests and attacks against alleged members of the New People’s Army."

CHR added that a team from its regional office would be dispatched to investigate the case.

Roque, however, downplayed the dangers of red-tagging, which military officials prefer to call "truth-tagging," saying: "Alam niyo, we do not agree na kung talagang red-tagging ng mga inosente, delikado. (You know, we do not agree that if its really red-tagging of the innocent, its dangerous)."

READ: Daughter of Bayan Muna solon dies in encounter with military | Citing killing of Zara Alvarez, Karapatan presses SC to grant protection writs

While his murder remains unsolved, Amanda's father, 71-year-old Randall, a long-time consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines suffered several punctures and stab wounds, signs of torture, before he was deliberately stabbed fatally, a forensic pathologist said

'Truth-tagging' not 'red-tagging,' gov't insists

"[A]s far as the president is concerned, yung mga Bayan Muna party-list group, its a statement of fact and not red-tagging," Roque said.

He was referring to President Rodrigo Duterte's raging monologue on Monday night, where he accused the Makabayan bloc, naming the Bayan Muna and Gabriela party-lists specifically, of being legal fronts for communists.

"We are not red-tagging you. We are identifying you as members in a grand conspiracy comprising all the legal that you have organized headed by the NDF (National Democratic Front), the New People’s Army, the Communist Party of the Philippines,” he said.

The following day, CHR Commissioner Karen Dumpit told the Senate panel on defense that red-tagging "continues to threaten life, liberty and security of human rights defenders across sectors."

"It cannot be denied that tagging is a matter of serious concern that should not be taken lightly. Aside from the delegitimization of dissent and public stigmatization, it is more often than not a prelude or even an open invitation for anyone to commit atrocities against the persons tagged," she said.

Red-tagging also conflates activism and membership in national democratic activist groups with taking up arms against the government despite the Bill of Rights guaranteeing that "the right of the people, including those employed in the public and private sectors, to form unions, associations, or societies for purposes not contrary to law shall not be abridged."

Roque himself acknowledged in Filipino on Thursday that "it is not a crime to be a communist, [rather], it is a crime to use force against fellow Filipinos."

CHR reminds authorities to abide by int'l standards for women prisoners, children

Comparisons have already been drawn between the arrest of Echanis along with her baby and the case of Reina Mae Nasino whose grief at the death of her baby remains fresh in the minds of many.

Following the death of Nasino's three-month-old baby, who she was forced to part with only a month after she was born, Roque said he would personally look into the matter and see what reforms could be brought about following the incident.

READ: After Baby River, Palace says reforms needed to improve facilities for pregnant inmatesTreatment of Nasino, Baby River violated int'l standards on prisoners, children — rights group

"Considering that Echanis just gave birth, CHR reminds concerned authorities to give primordial consideration to the welfare of the one-month-old baby as required by the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules," the commission said.

"As an accused who is deemed innocent until proven guilty in court, it is also expected that Echanis will be treated humanely and justly, as with all persons deprived of liberty, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the Nelson Mandela Rules," it added.

The Nelson Mandela Rules require member States to work towards establishing in women's institutions "special accommodation for all necessary pre-natal and post-natal care and treatment." Meanwhile, the Bangkok Rules stipulate that prison services in member states include provisions for the full range of needs of children in prison with their mothers, whether they be medical, physical, or psychological.

READ: Senate bill urges construction of facilities for pregnant, nursing detainees

— with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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