Int'l group appeals to President Aquino to free two mothers belonging to 'Morong 43'

August 28, 2010 11:31 pm 

MANILA, Aug. 28 –An international organization appealed to President Benigno S. Aquino III for the unconditional release from incarceration of two mothers, who both belonged to the so-called "Morong 43".

Nona D. Andaya-Castillo and Elvira L. Henares-Esguerra, who are two of the only five International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in the Philippines, submitted to President Aquino a Letter of Appeal for the unconditional release of Carina "Judilyn" Oliveros and Mercy Castro, two of the 43 alleged health workers who were arrested by military authorities on allegations that they were communist rebels conducting explosives training in a farm house in Morong, Rizal last Feb. 6.

The signatories of the letter have led the national and international campaigns to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in the country.

Andaya-Castillo and Henares-Esguerra have given Tanggol Bai, an association of women human rights defenders, and Karapatan, also an organization of human rights advocates, the permission to release the letter of appeal to the public.

In their Aug. 24, 2010 letter to the President, they said that Oliveros, 27, gave birth to her first child at the Philippine General Hospital on July 22, 2010 while Castro, 26, will be giving birth to her second child in October.

They said that the mothers’ names and addresses were not even on the warrant of arrest that was used to justify their capture and continued detention.

“We were told that Oliveros is breastfeeding her child so we would also like to ensure that the same rights be accorded to Castro. However, the World Health Organization’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and sustained breastfeeding beyond two years would be difficult to achieve in a place that is not mother and baby-friendly,” the letter read.

They also said in the letter that mothers need to be properly fed and cared for so that they can also have the health and stamina to nurture their children. They said they need to be in an environment that is comfortable and free from unnecessary stress.

“We support the call of Karapatan and other human rights groups to house these mothers and their children in a church shelter home under the custody of Bishop Reuel Marigza. We hope that Your Excellency would act positively on this matter as soon as possible to contribute to the effort of saving the lives of 16,000 Filipino children who die every year because they were not breastfed,” they said.

Last Aug. 19, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Oliveros has still the option to file a motion for reconsideration (MR) after the Morong regional trial court (RTC) denied the motion for release in recognizance for humanitarian reasons in her bid to be with her new born baby outside the detention cell.

De Lima said the DoJ is not objecting to the non-separation of Oliveros and her newborn son but stressed it cannot decide on recognizance.

“The DoJ is not opposing to the non-separation. But we cannot take a stand (in deciding to allow Oliveros to stay outside the jail). We have to note of that especially of the offense is non-bailable,” she said.

De Lima has given order to the prosecution handling the case of the so-called Morong 43 to withdraw the opposition on the plea to let Oliveros to be with her son for humanitarian reason.

“For humanitarian reason, I agreed that she should first stay with her child,” said de Lima.

The prosecution, led by Assistant Prosecutor Romeo Senson, was told not to file opposition to the motion filed by Oliveros’ camp in court.

The regional trial court (RTC) 78 of Morong, Rizal is hearing the case.

The human rights group Karapatan and the relatives of the Morong 43 detainees supported the motion for release of Oliveros on recognizance of Bishop Reuel Marigza, General Secretary of the United Church of the Christ in the Philippines .

“Mother and child, especially at the nursing stage, should not be separated. To do so is cruelty, Karapatan Deputy Secretary –General Jigs Clamor said.

“The innocent doctors, nurses and community health workers, collectively known as the Morong 43, must be released immediately and not subjected to inhumanity. There is no legal and moral basis for their arrest and continued detention. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines ) remains the only obstacle to justice with the fabricated charges filed against the health workers,” said Clamor.

The medical workers also renewed their call to the Court of Appeals and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) amid plans to transfer Oliveros, back to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.

The 43 health workers have been charged before the Regional Trial Court of Morong Rizal with violation of Presidential Decree 1866 as amended by Republic Act 8294 and Republic Act 9516 which imposes penalties for illegal possession of grenades and other explosives and Comelec Resolution No. 8714in relation to Article 261 (q) of the Election Code which prohibits any person, unless authorized by the Comelec, to carry firearms outside his residence during the election period. (PNA) RMA/JES

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