“How many more must die?” Karapatan demands justice for death of another political prisoner’s newborn baby

Mere months after the tragic death of Baby River, the three-month-old daughter of detained community organizer Reina Mae Nasino, the Duterte government “continues to unleash the fangs of inhumanity upon political prisoners,” human rights alliance Karapatan said as it condemned the death of Baby Carlen, the newborn daughter of detained peasant rights activist Nona Espinosa.

“The death of Baby River and now Baby Carlen are damning indictments of the government’s shamelessly inhumane and merciless treatment of women political prisoners — who have to face the torture of being separated from their newborn babies and their tragic deaths on top of unjust incarceration on lies and fabricated charges. How many more babies must die before they begin treating political prisoners and their children with the dignity and humanity that they deserve?,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay asked.

Espinosa gave birth via caesarean section on December 17, 2020 to Baby Carlen, who was born with a cleft palate and faced difficulties with breastfeeding; she was separated from her child two days after giving birth. Baby Carlen died on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2021 due to an infection in the lungs and blood after being hospitalized for a few days because of her weak immune system and low hemoglobin count. Espinosa was seven months pregnant when she was arrested along with her common-law husband Adidas Acero on September 20, 2020 in Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental along with seven other farmers. They are currently detained at the Guihungan City Police Station Jail.

Palabay echoed the call for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the death of Baby Carlen. “The deaths of babies of political prisoners are of serious and alarming concern — which speaks of the heartless, inhuman, and torturous treatment faced by women political prisoners behind bars. The CHR must investigate this, as such State neglect of women political prisoners and their child constitutes violations of the Bangkok rules. These mothers are already being punished for crimes they did not commit and their innocent, newborn children are not spared from the wrath of the fascist State.”

“This brutal act of separating women political prisoners from their newborn children — preventing them from providing the necessary and crucial nourishment and care for their babies, such as breastfeeding, during their formative years — is not only an incompassionate act but a brazen form of injustice that has and will continue to kill innocent infants if the government does not put an end to this inhumane policy. Baby Carlen and Baby River would have been able to have a fighting chance at living if not for the sheer cruelty of this government. We hold the government accountable for their deaths and will demand justice,” the Karapatan official ended.