Group seeks CHR probe into death of infant child of political prisoner mom

Group seeks CHR probe into death of infant child of political prisoner mom
In this photo taken October 14, various progressive groups flocked to the Commission on Human Rights to call for justice the death of Baby River, daughter of jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino, and for the release of political prisoners.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Advocacy group Kapatid on Thursday called on the Commission on Human Rights to look into death of barely a month-old Baby Carlen who, like Baby River, was separated from detainee mother Nona Espinosa.

Citing reports from local rights groups in Negros Oriental, Kapatid said Baby Carlen died on Sunday, February 14. The baby, born with a cleft palate, died “of an infection in the lungs and blood after being hospitalized for a few days because of low hemoglobin count,” the group said.

Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson, said: “We ask the [CHR] 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).”

The Bangkok Rules holds “decisions to allow children to stay with their mothers in prison shall be based on the best interests of the children.”

Baby Carlen's death happened mere months from Baby River’s tragic death. Like Baby River, Baby Carlen was also separated from her mother. Baby Carlen had an even shorter time with her mother, as they were separated merely three days from birth.

RELATED: Three-month-old baby dies without reuniting with political prisoner mom

A Pilipino Star Ngayon report in September 2020 said Judge Mario Trinidad issued a warrant of arrest against Espinosa and her husband Adidas Acero, identified in the report as alleged officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines, for several crimes. Including multiple murder. Rights group Karapatan – Negros Island however claimed the charges are trumped up.

In a release in November 2020, Karapatan – Negros said Espinosa’s sister sought their assistance as Nona was pregnant when she was arrested. Recalling Baby River’s tragedy, Karapatan Negros said: “We worry that the same thing will happen to Nona, We do not want the same cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment to happen to Nona Espinosa.”

Kapatid said local groups reported that Baby Carlen was separated from her mother three days since birth. Espinosa, after giving birth by cesarean delivery "because of perceived complications," was brought back to the Guihungan City Police Station Jail, while Baby Carlen was given to her mother’s family.

'What about other prisoners also separated from their newborn child?'

Lim stressed that infants dying after being separated from their matters is a 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?” she added.

“We have repeatedly pointed out that the importance of keeping mother and child together as breastfeeding is essential for survival, especially for those born with health concerns,” Lim also said.

She pointed out that Baby Carlen was born with a cleft palate and her other could have provided her needs, but they were separated too soon.

Kapatid noted that according the Cleft Lip and Palate Associate, if a baby is unable to suckle the breast before their palate is repaired, “it is possible, with commitment, for them to taste and lick milk expressed onto the nipple and be fed with expressed breast milk by another feeding method. Any amount of breast milk is beneficial.”

“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,” Lim also said.

Nasino’s case

Nasino and more than 20 other political prisoners failed to secure a favorable ruling in their plea for temporary release under humanitarian grounds in 2020. She however returned to the Supreme Court asking it to resolve issues in her case to prevent similar tragedies happening to other detained mothers.

In a Petition for Certiorari, Nasino and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers elevated lower courts’ rulings that separated her and Baby River that were also later upheld.

They stressed that Nasino’s case falls under the principle of "capable of repetition yet evading review".

"Reina Mae implores this Honorable Court to resolve the issues in the present case so that no other nursing mother and child may be precipitately separated from each other and deprived of the right to breastfeed," the NUPL added. — Kristine Joy Patag

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