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Return of mother and her baby to jail elicits strong reactions

By Ron de Vera     Aug 20, 2010 in World
Manila - On Friday, a health worker who recently gave birth was transferred from the hospital back to the police camp where she was detained while pregnant. Judilyn Oliveros and her infant will rejoin other health workers accused of being members of a rebel group.
Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), aka Bayan, criticized the handling as “inhumane.” According to a GMA report, Bayan Sec. Gen. Renato Reyes Jr. described it as “cruel” and “too much.” Reyes said "Oliveros was led out of the Philippine General Hospital on a wheelchair and in handcuffs. She was not able to carry her baby on the trip during the transfer."
Oliveros is one of 43 health workers arrested last February 6 in Morong, Rizal on suspicion of being members of the New People's Army (NPA), an armed group of insurgents. The detained health workers are now referred to as ‘Morong 43.’ According to an earlier GMA report, the health workers maintain that they were undergoing health skills training when they were arrested by police and army elements. In the same report, the arresting officers claimed they were undergoing training on making bombs.
The validity of the arrest has been questioned. ABS-CBN reported that one of the health workers’ lawyers, Romeo Capulong, said “The search warrant is fatally defective. It was not described in the warrant the place to be searched and the persons and things to be seized. That would make the search warrant invalid." According to Inquirer, relatives of the arrested have pointed out that the suspect, Mario Condes, referred to on the warrant of arrest was not even among the health workers.
“After the warrant-less arrests, the health workers were denied legal counsel and subjected to sleep deprivation and repeated interrogation while blindfolded and handcuffed. Some were tortured and sexually harassed,” said Dr. Santiago of Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD) in a report by Inquirer.
The state of human rights violations in the Philippines has been a subject of international scrutiny. In a 2008 report on the Philippines made by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Alston wrote “however, in relation to many of the recommendations made, the Government has failed to make sufficient substantive progress and, in some cases, has made no progress at all.”
Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, former Chief of the Commission on Human Rights, has stated that under the Arroyo administration alone, cases of extrajudicial killings may range from 100 to 1,000 depending on who’s monitoring. Documented cases were also filed during administrations prior to Arroyo's.
De Lima earlier ruled against a move to seperate Oliveros from her newborn son. Inquirer quoted De Lima “I have ordered the prosecutor (State Prosecutor Romeo Senson) to withdraw his opposition... Mother and child should not be separated.” Senson had blocked a petition that Oliveros made to the Morong Regional Trial Court to allow her to nurse and bond with her baby.
Another detainee, Mercy Castro, is due to give birth this October, according to GMA.
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