Friday, September 17, 2021

Tell it to SunStar: Rights group raps separation of political prisoner from newborn a day after delivery

“Two mothers weep today—Mary grieves over the death of her son Jesus Christ and Elizabeth Estilon weeps for her newborn son who was separated from her a day after giving birth.”

This was the statement of Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, on Good Friday, the day in which Christians annually observe the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, as it condemned what it described as the “cruel and merciless” act of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Sorsogon province.

Estilon, 41, then around six months pregnant, was arrested on Dec. 24, 2020 in Barangay Lalod, Bulusan, Sorsogon on fabricated cases of violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 and illegal possession of firearms and explosives. She gave birth to an infant boy last March 27 at the Dr. Fernando B. Duran Sr. Memorial Hospital, the provincial hospital in Sorsogon. She named her child Prince Joel Estilon.

According to a report from Karapatan-Sorsogon, the following day, March 28, Estilon was brought back to the Sorsogon City District Jail after the BJMP authorities required her family to go to the hospital where her baby was given to Estilon’s daughter.

Today, as the Blessed Virgin weeps over the death of her son who was unjustly sentenced to death, a mother who was illegally arrested and is being wrongfully charged weeps for her child because of the BJMP’s gross disregard of its own policies.

In fact, the BJMP has its own policy under BJMP Memo Circular No. 2010-02 dated Aug. 12, 2020 which provides that an infant born while the mother is detained in jail may be allowed to stay with the mother for a period not exceeding one month. A host of national and international laws provide the same thing to protect the welfare and health of newborns and ensure their survival.

So why inflict the cruel and merciless act of separating a child from his mother right after being born? Even animals need time to nurse their young. Those in authority must be reminded that being a political prisoner does not deprive one of their rights whether within the ambit of national and international laws or under the moral arc of plain humanity.

We call on the Commission on Human Rights and concerned government offices to look into this blatant inhumane treatment of political prisoner Elizabeth Estilon. The same case happened to political prisoners Reina Mae Nasino and Nona Espinosa whose babies were separated from them immediately after birth and died not long after.


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