The words made the unkindest cut. “In the interest of compassionate justice,” Judge Toribio Ilao Jr. of Pasig RTC Branch 266 wrote, he was allowing detained leftist activist Andrea Rosal to leave her hospital room to attend the wake for her infant who died two days after birth. Provided, however, the judge said, that she is escorted by a “sufficient number of jail guards,” and that she stay at the wake only from 2 to 5 p.m.
Three hours. Even dogs and other beasts are known to mourn for their dead offspring longer. Yet in Ilao’s view of compassionate justice, that was all the time Rosal needed to come to terms with the loss of her firstborn. But that was not all. The court order was that after having been immediately returned to her hospital room or her detention cell after her three-hour furlough, Rosal was barred from attending the burial of her child in Batangas the day after—“for security reason.”
Rosal is deemed a security risk apparently because she is a daughter of the late Communist Party of the Philippines spokesperson Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal. On April 3, she was apprehended and charged with kidnapping, murder and attempted homicide. She was seven months pregnant then. The conditions of the expectant mother’s detention appeared to have been extraordinarily stressful. Rosal was quoted in reports as saying that she was forced to sleep on the floor because the bed assigned to her by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in the ladies’ dormitory of Camp Bagong Diwa was uncomfortable. She was among 32 inmates cramped inside a 5×10-meter cell. She wasn’t allowed to use an electric fan, and “there wasn’t a regular doctor that could check on me during my sensitive days. I even had to buy my own food because the food served to us were not suitable for my condition.”
A day before her delivery, Rosal underwent the additional stress of being shuffled to and from the camp and the Philippine General Hospital. While she was reportedly examined and monitored for four hours at the PGH, in the end she was discharged because the attending doctor determined she wasn’t due yet for delivery and no room was available at the perennially congested hospital.
Why not other hospitals then? BJMP spokesperson Roy Valenzuela said the authorities’ hands were tied. The court had rejected the BJMP’s recommendation that Rosal be taken to the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital instead of the PGH for a prenatal checkup. But couldn’t a doctor have been fetched instead to check on Rosal in jail? “Efforts were exerted by the jail authorities to tap the services of an
ob-gyne from the hospital but to no avail,” Valenzuela said.
Rosal’s baby, whom she named Diona Andrea, lived only for two days, succumbing to “persistent pulmonary hypertension.” It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the child would have had a greater chance at survival had her mother been afforded reasonable, humane care even while in detention. Pregnancy is hard enough; what more carrying a baby to term while under the most difficult physical conditions?
And the least the government could have done after the infant’s death was to allow the mother some measure of dignity in grieving. How could a weakened woman, still recovering from childbirth and devastated by her baby’s death, pose any kind of security risk? What would it have cost the government to summon a smidgen of compassion by making strong representations with the court to allow Rosal more time out of detention to mourn and bury her child?
The government posed no objection, after all, when former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo sought a furlough from her hospital detention. It has facilitated the continuing hospital treatment of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, who has served not one hour in the kind of hellish regular jail that Rosal was thrown into, but has been afforded her own highly guarded detention facility. Unlike Rosal, Napoles has not had to wait for top medical care. She has been at the Ospital ng Makati for months, and her lawyers are working nonstop to overturn the recent court decision ordering her return to her detention quarters in Laguna.
One could perhaps live with an incompetent, inefficient government. But a government’s deliberate cruelty is something else. Andrea Rosal may be guilty of the crimes imputed to her and she would still not deserve the callous treatment she has been made to endure. What compassionate justice was the court talking about?
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