Roses for Diona Andrea Rosal
By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
I have never met Andrea Rosal and I do not know her personally. I do, however, know of her, and who her father is. Andrea Rosal is the daughter of Ka Roger Rosal, the former spokesman of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). Ka Roger died in 2011, and his loss was mourned by many even outside the revolutionary movement.
In the last two months have grown to know more about Andrea, and what I learned about her and her circumstances have added to the already lengthy list of reason why I do not believe this government when it says that it stands for human rights in the Philippines. I also know that in the last two days, she has lost all fear, and that from now on she can only be strong because someone most precious to her was taken away forever.
In March 27 earlier this year, Andrea, 28, was arrested by Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) and the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Organized Crime Division (NBI-AOCD) as she was on her way to Caloocan for a pre-natal check-up. She was seven months pregnant at the time. She and her companion Edward Lazanas are peasant organizers in Laguna under the Pagkakaisa at Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka sa Laguna (Unity of Peasants in Laguna, PUMALAG). Andrea was arrested on charges of murder, and kidnapping with murder. Lanzanas, on the other hand, was arrested without a warrant and is still under detention without any valid charges.
According to the spokesperson of the Free Andrea Rosal Movement Pastor Gil Sediarin, during her whole day interrogation at the NBI upon her arrest, Andrea was repeatedly asked about her relationship with the late CPP spokesperson Roger Rosal and if Ka Roger was her father. The NBI authorities also sought to pressure Edward to admit that he was an NPA member.
“Andrea told us that the interrogators threatened to peel Edward’s sole and make him walk on salt if he does not admit that he was an NPA,” he said. “These are outright violations of international humanitarian law,” he said.
Basis of Arrest
Why was she arrested? The spokesman of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said that Andrea was “a ranking official of the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA) in the Southern Tagalog Region. Andrea had been charged with attempted homicide at the Luisiana-Cavinti court in Laguna in connection with an alleged ambush staged several years ago.
That the military would accuse her of being a member of the NPA is not surprising. According to human rights group Karapatan, in its failure to defeat the NPA, the AFP has made it a habit to accuse otherwise innocent civilians of being sympathizers or members. Still, it is a cause of outrage for human rights advocates that Andrea’s arrest was based on a report founded on second-hand, unsubstantiated and unverified information that Andrea was seen in a supposed NPA training camp. Now she stands accused of murder and kidnapping. She is the same Andrea who was kidnapped 25 years ago by elements of the Southern Luzon Command and received no justice for it. In 1989, then five-year old Andrea was forcibly taken by soldiers from her grandmother with whom she grew up in Ragay, Camarines Sur.
It’s painful to imagine how Andrea suffered the last two months. Any woman who has been pregnant will testify that pregnancy is not easy. The body changes, and with it one’s state of mind and feeling. One is often in a state of discomfort; and even when one deeply loves the unborn child growing inside one’s body, it cannot be denied that one does not love the aches and pains, the swollen feet and ankles, the oddness of appetite, the mood swings and the fear of something bad happening to the baby. In Andrea’s case, I am certain she cared nothing for herself, but greatly feared for nothing but her child.
Andrea was pregnant when she was arrested, and her captors showed little or no respect for the fact and that by all intents and purposes, she was a political prisoner. They took her to the Camp Bagong Diwa prison. Her supporters say that the authorities threw her in a dirty 5 x 10 meters small jail cell with 30 other ordinary inmates, and let her sleep on the cold floor. There was no clean water, no immediate access to medical care, and the heat was unbearable. The petition of her supporters that an electric fan be brought in for us was reportedly denied by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
The AFP has insisted in subsequent reports that they did all it could to take of Andrea and her unborn child. On the other hand, the only doctor who examined her was from the Health Action for Human Rights (HAHR) Dr. Geneve Rivera-Reyes who said that from Andrea’s pregnancy was put at risk by her arrest. Reyes said that it was also Andrea’s family who paid for all the laboratory tests, not the BJMP or the Aquino government.
In an interview, Reyes said that when Andrea was first detained on March 27 at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), she already complained of stomach cramps, but the NBI nurse just made her fill out a form.
“On her third day of detention, the obstetrician whom the HAHR sought help from on Andrea’s behalf requested to see Andrea was able to access Andrea and examine her only after many circuitous and frustrating arguments with the NBI guards and officials. Only after the HAHR doctor insisted that Andrea be brought to a hospital because of premature contractions did the NBI bring her to Medical Center Manila for an ultrasound. Andrea’s Aunt Fely paid for the ultrasound; she gave P10,000 for the procedure, but the guards did not return the change,” Reyes said.
In Camp Bagong Diwa, while waiting for the court order for her hospitalization, Reyes said that gave Andrea a prenatal checkup, but it was not a thorough one as there was no space in the prison. “I was able to examine Andrea only in the hallway or in the guard’s office, where Andrea had to only lie on the office floor so she can be examined. The BJMP offficials and employees were walking all around us,” she said.
Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said that since her arrest, Andrea was forced to stop taking her supplements and had to make do with prison food rations, which is usually just rice and a meagre amount of fish or boiled vegetables. “She was allergic to fish, but she was not allowed to cook her own food. She had to sleep on the floor because the sleeping cot assigned to her was on the third deck. Her request for an electric fan of her own was refused by jail authorities who said that there was a limit on the allowable number of fans in each cell,” she said.
The doctor Reyes insisted that contrary to assertions of officials of the BJMP like Inspector Alex Villaester and BJMP spokesman Roy Valenzuela, not a single official of the BJMP expressed concern that Andrea was pregnant. Had it not for the stringent campaigning of HAHR and the human rights groups, Reyes said, Andrea would not have been allowed to go to the Philippine General Hospital to give birth. And when she was finally transferred from Camp Bagong Diwa to the PGH on May 16, she was already suffering painful contractions. She went through eight long hours of labor and a few hours after dawn, her baby was born.
A Mother for Two Days
The baby, Diona Andrea, looked glorious and her heartbeat was strong, but she entered the world without breathing. She immediately needed an artificial respirator. She represented so much to her mother and to those who supported her plea for freedom, but Diona Andrea was not strong enough. What her mother went through in the last two months of her incarceration she was unable to overcome. On May 18 at around 5:00 pm, Baby Diona expired due to pulmonary hypertension secondary to neonatal pneumonia and hypoxic encephalopathy. She died from hypoxemia, or oxygen deficiency in the blood.
There are no words. Imagine Andrea being told that the baby she carried for nine months has died, and she was never even able to touch or hold her. Imagine Andrea in her grief perhaps thinking that it was all her fault that her daughter died, when all along it was human monsters that killed Diona Andrea when they threw her mother in prison.
What is clear through all this is that Andrea did not receive adequate medical attention considering the advanced state of her pregnancy.
According to the women’s group Gabriela, how Andrea was treated constituted violations of international humanitarian laws on the treatment of pregnant women prisoners of war. The group’s secretary general Joms Salvador explained that the Geneva Convention and its protocols specifically take into consideration the conditions of pregnant women and provides for the accommodation of their needs during detention. “Pregnant prisoners of war have the right to prenatal and postnatal care. International standards recognize that the ill-treatment of pregnant women in detention increases the risks of miscarriage or permanent injury towards the mother as well as the unborn child’, she said.
The women’s group, human rights and church-led organizations held an indignation rally in front of the Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City to denounce what they said that was the government callousness and betrayal of human rights. A day after baby Diona’s death, they arranged all the baby clothes, diapers, and toys they had solicited from various supporters in front of the Camp Aguinaldo gate.
“We were as eager as Andrea to see the baby; we were looking forward to watching her grow because she was a symbol of new life and freedom given what her mother suffered while she carried her. Because of
Baby Diona Andrea’s wake was held at the cathedral of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente. What added further injury to an already appalling, galling series of injuries, the Taguig RTC Branch 266 resolved that “in the interest of compassionate justice”. Andrea was allowed to attend the wake of her baby for three hours from 2-5pm on May 21. She was not allowed to attend the burial of her daughter on May 22, 2014.
Relatives, friends and various supporters buried Diona Andrea in Ibaan Batangas on a cloudy, muted morning.
Andrea continues to be denied her freedom. She stands accused of crimes that she insists she is innocent of. Still she is, after all her, father and mother’s daughter, and it is certain that she has reserves of strength that the AFP will never be able to extinguish, and she will survive this ordeal. Her own mother Rosemarie Dumanais was killed in February 2011 in Quezon in an armed encounter between soldiers and the NPA.
Andrea’s petition for the dismissal of the case is scheduled to be heard on Sep. 2, 2014. Her lawyers filed a petition for the dismissal of the case on grounds that she was mentioned in the witnesses’ sworn statement only once. According to Andrea’s legal counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) led by Atty. Edre U. Olalia, Erwin Rosales, one of the witnesses, stated that he trained with Andrea and other members of the NPA. Olalia said that Rosales did not mention Andrea’s name in his sworn statement when he listed the names and aliases of those involved in the kidnapping and murder case, which allegedly happened on May 27, 2007.
According to Olalia, Andrea was arrested based on a warrant of arrest that the judge issued relying on a faulty affidavit that she was seen at an NPA camp by the witness Rosales. “Walang ebidensya na kumukonekta sa kanya sa mga krimeng ipinapataw sa kanya. But guilty or innocent, the government has a responsibility to treat prisoners especially those who are not even convicted, humanely. Given her condition authorities -from the judge, to the prosecution to the BJMP officials – should have ensured that Andrea Rosal was given proper medical attention as a first-time mother whose doctor had already warned that she could be having a high-risk pregnancy,” the human rights lawyer explained.
Olalia explained that the charges of the AFP against Andrea are baseless and the evidence against her are fabricated.
“The only basis/evidence for the indictment of Rosal and her co-accused are the sworn statements of a certain Erwin Rosales, alleged former NPA who claimed to have witnessed the incident; and Marissa Eclavea, widow of one of the alleged victims. In his statement, Rosales merely described and identified the individuals who allegedly ordered and those who carried out the abduction/killing. He never mentioned Andrea Rosal among those he described and identified. This indicates that Rosal was falsely implicated in the said criminal cases, thus her arrest and continued detention is illegal,” Olalia said.
The human rights lawyer also argued that the State forces’ use of “witnesses-for-hire” like Rosales is “very malicious”.
“Aside from his original sworn statement, Erwin Rosales executed and signed three more sworn statements that implicated other individuals in the case and were used as basis of their arrest. Among them was Rolly Mira Panesa, a security guard whom he falsely identified as “Benjamin Mendoza” an alleged high ranking member of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Rolly Mira Panesa was released by virtue of a Writ of Habeas Corpus issued by the Court of Appeals, where it was ascertained that he is not Benjamin Mendoza, contrary to Rosales’s assertion,” Olalia said.
Andrea has a long and difficult struggle ahead of her as a citizen of a country wherein social justice is but a phrase that means very little to those in power. As a political detainee, she now suffers being directly denied her right to be free, even if only to put roses on the grave of her beloved daughter.