Humane Treatment Urged for ‘Morong 43′ Mom, Newborn

“My baby could not sleep until I put him beside me,” Carina Oliveros said. She could not get her eyes off her newborn son lying next to her. “He looks like his father,” she said, smiling. “He kicks so strongly the basin almost fell when we were bathing him the other morning.”

Carina, 27, is one of the 43 health workers who were arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal. She gave birth to her baby boy on July 22, ast around 11 a.m., through Caesarean section.

Instead of a police detention facility, the Morong 43 were brought to Camp Capinpin, home of the 2nd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. For almost three months, they were held in military captivity until 38 of them were transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City. At the time of the arrest, Carina was two months pregnant. “He must have endured all the stress in prison,” she told Bulatlat in an interview.

In an earlier interview with Bulatlat, Carina recounted how she suffered from psychological torture in the hands of her interrogators. Carina and another pregnant woman, Mercy Castro, were not spared from ill treatment.

Last week, on July 28, Mary Jane Clemente, jail warden of the detention facility at Camp Bagong Diwa, visited Carina. “She [Clemente] asked me where would I leave my son,” Carina said. “It is time for me to go back to jail.”

Judge Gina Cenat Escoto of the Morong Regional Trial Court Branch 78 had approved Oliveros’s deliveryat the PGH due to the availability of better and adequate medical facilities. Carinawas given three days to a week’s time before going back to Camp Bagong Diwa.

Clemente told Carina that she could leave her son to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to her parents or to any relative. “I cried and told her to allow me to be with my son. I want to be with my son,” Carina said.

She said that after the visit of the jail warden, her bleeding became strong and she had a loose bowel movement (LBM). “It was probably because of stress,” she said.

The mother said she wrote to the court, asking for permission to allow her to be with her son for a little while. “I also said that we, the Morong 43, should be immediately released because the accusations against us are baseless,” Carina said further.

The Morong 43 were slapped with charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives. They were arrested based on a search warrant against a certain Mario Condes who has never been found.

The Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed their petition for writ of habeas corpus using the martial-law era Ilagan vs Enrile doctrine. The lawyers of the Morong 43 have filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. To date, the high court has yet to issue a decision on the petition.

The health workers also filed charges of human-rights violations against the military and the police at the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and recently, before the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). Relatives of the Morong 43 have also sought the help of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

Lawyer Rachel Pastores of the Public Interest Law Center (PILC), one of the legal counsels of the Morong 43, told Bulatlat that they filed a special appearance with motion to release [Oliveros] on recognizance for humanitarian reasons on July 29. The hearing on the said motion is scheduled on Aug. 6.

“We did not the state duration [of the release]. It’s up to the court [to decide] but doctor’s recommendation is six months,” Pastores said.

Dr. Julie Caguiat, spokesperson of the Free the 43 Health Workers Alliance, said there are particular medical needs which should be given to Oliveros and that Camp Bagong Diwa does not have facilities to deal with post natal care.

Carina repeatedly said that all she wants is to be with her baby. “It is our right,” she said.

She said that her mother would find it difficult to nurse her baby. Her mother Sheila, now 53, has hypertension and has four other granddaughters and grandsons to look after. She also tends their farm in Palawig, Zambales.
“I worry about my mother being exhausted. She already has a lot of things to care about. Of course, she could not breastfeed my baby… If ever my son gets sick, the hospital is far from our place,” Carina said.

For the Sake of the Baby

Caguiat said Oliveros still needs to stay out of prison to fully recover from her caesarian delivery and breastfeed her baby, which is necessary as part of the child’s development.

The recommended full recovery of a mother coming from a caesarian delivery is 65 days, while exclusive breastfeeding for a child is necessary for the first six months and mixed breastfeeding up to two years.

“It is impossible to nurse an infant inside the prison; more so in their damp, cramped and poorly ventilated detention cell housing all 23 of the female detainees,” Caguiat said.

Both the gynecologist and pediatrician looking after Oliveros and her baby also have recommended it is best to suspend jail time for Oliveros due to her condition and for her baby’s health and welfare.

Caguiat said that some religious groups have expressed their willingness to house and take care of Oliveros and her child.


“The continuous detention of the health workers or the Morong 43, is in itself already very tenuous, I don’t know how the courts can legally defend such a violation! And then this dispensation will further aggravate the situation by cruelly separating the baby from his source of nourishment, love and comfort, practically violating the baby’s basic rights,” Karapatan chairperson Marie Hilao-Enriquez said in a separate statement.

“Baby boy Oliveros is just over a week old and it is most cruel to have him separated from his mother; I completely know this as I delivered my firstborn myself when I was imprisoned during martial law. I and my fellow political prisoners did not allow my baby to be separated from me,” Enriquez said further.

“It is inhumane for the court to order a nursing mother to go back to prison with her newborn child. We could only imagine [Carina’s] turmoil as none could be more horrid for a mother than the thought of her child being put in peril,” said Joms Salvador, deputy secretary-general of Gabriela.

Gabriela said Carina’s case is a human rights issue as it is a reproductive health issue. “Her detention in camp together with her newborn son is violative of her rights as a woman and as a human being. It would also seriously imperil the safety and violate the rights of her child,” Salvador added.

Gabriela challenged President Benigno S. Aquino III to “stay true to his promise of justice by immediately intervening in the case of Carina and the rest of the Morong 43.”

“We shall not rest until Aquino sees the necessity of freeing the women and all political prisoners. It is only through restoring their rights as citizens of this country and as human beings could Aquino begin to claim that political repression is not his administration’s policy,” Salvador said. Ronalyn Olea/

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