There is no justice in a country where a pregnant woman is put in a jail cell with 31 other women, where she is made to sleep on the floor, and live without the medical attention that she has a right to on her third trimester.
There was nothing just or right, nothing at all that was valid, about the way the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)—and this government!—treated one Andrea Rosal. Political prisoner, mother-to-be.
Now the mother of a dead daughter.
In a country where being pregnant means a celebration no matter one’s impoverished circumstances or the fact that it’s your sixth child, no matter the difficult and distressed pregnancies or sick babies, the ill treatment of Andrea could only have been deliberate.
And this is what angers me. Because what would’ve been easier, what is normal for us culturally, is to give the pregnant woman some special treatment. Compassion allows us to think in terms of trimesters for the pregnant woman, where the first is the most delicate, and the last the most critical. Kindness pushes us to make that extra effort in treating her better: bring her the food she likes, feed the baby what she needs, allow the pregnant the rest her body demands, worry her as little as possible.
We do not stress out the pregnant woman. We do not add on to her anxieties. We give her our seat on the train, and feed her more than usual. We worry about her comforts.
To have captured this woman seven months into her pregnancy, and then to have decided that she be thrown into a cramped cell, is contrary to everything we know about how to treat the pregnant. To have decided to treat her differently from every other pregnant woman we might encounter, to have decided that she be treated like she was not pregnant at all, could only be conscious and deliberate. That is what makes it evil.
Too, one can’t help but ask: how many brains does it take to see that a captive into the seventh month of pregnancy should be brought straight to a hospital, and not a cramped jail cell?
Apparently, a lot of brains. AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr. has talked about how they were “in a quandary” about Andrea’s arrest, because she was seven months pregnant.
A quandary?!?!? Why on earth would the AFP be in a quandary about how to treat a woman in the seven month of pregnancy?
Isn’t it that the military itself should be the one institution we can depend on to know and respect our rights? The last thing we want to hear is how they were in a dilemma about how treat this one pregnant woman they had just captured. Because there are no dilemmas as far as our basic rights are concerned. There is just respecting it, or forgetting it altogether.
There is no in-between either. Tutaan asserts that Andrea was given medical attention upon arrest, yet there have been no denials about that cramped cell and being forced to sleep on the floor. Neither have they denied that she suffered with no proper ventilation, not even given her own electric fan.
How many military officials does it take to figure out that the rights of the pregnant woman to specific and special medical attention take precedence over everything else including her being political prisoner?
And then the AFP has the gall—the apog, the yabang!—to talk about Andrea and how she lived, so that they might blame the death of her baby on her, and her alone. Again, the AFP spokesperson: ‘’We could say probably the stress that she had during her pregnancy was for the seven months that she was in hiding. We make sure that all the rights due her by virtue of the provisions of the law were accorded her.”
The AFP is saying in effect that Andrea was better off in jail than free, and that it was worse for her baby outside of that jail cell. They are also saying that this baby would’ve survived had its mother lived a different life altogether.
That is really all sorts of stupidities right there. Who even imagines that putting a pregnant woman through the process of arrest and capture would be good for her? In what world is being put in a jail cell with 31 other women the better place to live in, compared to, say, the wide green yonder?
Too: in what world is it okay for the AFP—and in effect the government it represents—to blame a mother for the dead child she carries in her arms? It is insensitive and unkind. It is also the AFP feeding the public propaganda even as it warns that it is what human rights groups are doing by talking about Andrea and her baby.
No, no. The propaganda is clear here, and it’s coming from the mouths of the State’s spokesmen. It is propaganda that seeks to discredit Andrea as a mother, and which at its core is about encouraging and justifying the injustice that she has suffered. It is propaganda that justifies how this baby died while she and her mother were in the care of the State. It is propaganda that will allow the State to wash its hands of this affair.
I can’t but get even angrier. To refuse to let Andrea go to her baby’s wake, to allow her only two hours to visit. To refuse to let her go through the process of grieving.
To fail to understand the gravity of what this woman is going through. To refuse to let her go through the psychological and emotional process of having given birth and having lost a child. None of this is right. All of it is just evil and vile. And heinous.