Andrea Rosal and the State of Human Rights in The Philippines

Monday, June 16th, 2014 4:36 pm

An 8-month pregnant Andrea Rosal was arrested by the Philippine military for supposedly being a member of the rebel New People’s Army.  She was kept in a cell with 30 other inmates under conditions not exactly appropriate for a woman about to give birth.  About a month later she gave birth to baby daughter Diona, who lived only two days.  Andrea was separated from her baby after she gave birth, reunited only after Diona’s death, and only briefly at that.  Not even two hours passed and she was whisked away, back to her hospital bed, under heavy guard.  She was later allowed to attend her daughter’s funeral wake, for only two hours.  She was not even allowed to see her daughter buried.  Then after just a few days, she was dragged out of the hospital and put her back into her detention cell.  The authorities ignored all pleas from her doctor and human rights advocates to give her even just a few more days to recover from child birth and the accompanying trauma of her daughter’s death.

The dismal conditions in her cell, and the fact that she was completely denied pre-natal care and check-up for the whole month prior to giving birth just about ensured her daughter’s death.  What warrants such a treatment of a prisoner, even assuming that the charges against her are true? 

The Philippines is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention, both landmark documents that seek to protect the rights of individuals in war and/or peace.  As such, the Philippine government, no matter who is at its helm, is expected to uphold the provisions in the said documents.  In the case of Andrea Rosal (and countless others) the government didn’t act accordingly, even  if she indeed is a rebel, for which there is no evidence (except, if it counts as evidence, for her being the daughter of a late rebel leader, Gregorio Rosal). 

There’s more to this story, though.  Current President, Benigno Aquino III was educated at the most prestigious Jesuit university in The Philippines, and when we were school kids in The Philippines, we were taught to take pride to be living in the “only Christian nation in Asia.” As a child, my attitude to that statement, even then, was ambivalent.    Now, I feel ashamed if such a statement is supposed to be an indicator of moral ascendancy. 

Human rights violations run rampant in The Philippines.  Even more galling is the fact that offenders among the upper classes tend to be given VIP treatment, even if they are charged with far graver crimes, like corruption and plunder.  One such special case is that of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who just about everyone in The Philippines knows as guilty of many counts of corruption.  She never experienced prison and instead spent her time in a hospital, after she fell ill, strangely enough, when she was about to be arrested.  Another former President, Joseph Estrada was convicted of plunder, but was detained in a safe house whose amenities and conveniences I can only dream of having.  Then President Arroyo then pardoned and released him.  Now, Estrada is the mayor of Manila.

The double standard and the contempt toward ordinary folk by the current administration is just among the factors that is fueling the armed opposition, not just to the current administration, but against the Philippine state, especially when the succession of leaders mostly pay  lip service to peace negotiations. 

There are, of course, Christians that have been advocating for human rights and peace talks.  Among Protestants, there is the National Council of Churches and some of the member denominations under it.  It is also pleasing to note that a good number of United Methodist clergy and laity are active in such endeavors.  Among the Roman Catholics, there are significant congregations of priests and nuns that advocate for and provide assistance to victims of human rights violations.  In a country where 80 percent of the people are Roman Catholic, we hope for a future in which their bishops become more active in the pursuit of justice, peace and human rights.  May we continue to work for the day when “the most Christian nation in Asia” is also one in which peace and justice flourish.


Haniel R. Garibay is Cross Cultural Coordinator with MFSA. Born and raised in The Philippines, Haniel is a home missioner and serves on the boards of the Virginia Conference Board of Church and Society, the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists (NAFAUM), and the General Board of Church and Society. Currently, Haniel is also a student at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC.

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