By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA–Breastfeeding advocates and children’s rights NGOs found the court decision allowing the hospital detention of Morong 43 mother and her newborn to be wanting.
Carina Judilyn Oliveros, one of the 43 health workers arrested on Feb. 6 in Morong, Rizal, gave birth by cesarean section to her first child on July 22 at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).
In a decision issued August 25, the Morong court ruled that mother and baby be allowed to stay at the Philippine General Hospital for three months so that the mother could breastfeed her child. After three months, the court ordered that Oliveros be sent back to jail at Camp Bagong Diwa.
August has been declared as Breastfeeding Awareness Month by Republic Act 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009.” “It should be a celebration for breastfeeding mothers but not for Carina “Judilyn” Oliveros who is living in fear and anxiousness before the court has reached its decision,” the Association for the Rights of Children in South East Asia (Arcsea) said in a statement.
“The lower court’s decision is a positive development on Judilyn and her son’s case. But on the other hand, the three month period for breast feeding is still not enough. It is highly recommended that the mother should breastfeed her child for a minimum of six months. Furthermore, the nursing mother and the infant should be in a stress-free environment while providing postnatal care,” said Madella Santiago, Arcsea executive director.
Ironically, the recent court order even quotes the letter of Oliveros’s doctor stating that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. “To ensure milk production by the mother, the baby has to constantly feed from her breasts. It is also important that the mother is stress-free and be housed in a comfortable place. It is in this light that this certification is made so that the mother-baby bonding is established by keeping them together in a place which stimulates a home environment,” the decision read.
In another interview, Nona Andaya-Castillo, one of the only five International Board Certified Lactation Consultants in the Philippines, said the PGH is hardly an environment suitable for breastfeeding. “Yes, it is a lot better [than the jail] but it is still not a comfortable place,” Castillo said.
“There are many pathogens [germs that cause diseases] there…We’re putting the child and even the mother at high risk.” Castillo said.
A church-run shelter home is best, Castillo said, who also manages The Breastfeeding Clinic.
Castillo’s group sent a letter of appeal to President Benigno S. Aquino III for the release of Oliveros and Mercy Castro, another pregnant detainee who will give birth this October. “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,” they said in a letter dated Aug. 24.
“There can be no substitute for the nutritional benefits and the bond between mother and child which can be developed during breastfeeding,” Santiago said, noting that the mother and child will be separated after three months.
“Although the court’s decision is a positive development, we are still hoping that newborn infants like Baby Boy Oliveros and Mercy Castro’s child could attain their right to proper nutrition and would not be separated from their mothers,” Santiago said.
Not Really Humane
“Judilyn Oliveros should be allowed to care for her baby outside a detention facility. In the first place, the Morong 43 should not stay in jail any longer,” the Kilusang Mayo Uno said in a separate statement.
“Preventing a mother from nursing her newborn baby outside a detention facility is clearly inhumane. But allowing her to do that for only three months doesn’t go that far in being humane. She should be allowed to stay at the hospital longer, or better still, at home,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU executive vice-chairperson.
Ustarez added that the Morong 43 should be freed immediately.
The group also criticized President Benigno Aquino III for “playing deaf” to the calls for the immediate release of the 43 health workers and other political detainees.
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