Gov’t urged to release activist, baby from Cagayan jail due to COVID-19 threat

Families and friends of political prisoners are asking the government to show compassion to Amanda Echanis and her three-month-old child by releasing them from the Cagayan jail, where coronavirus cases have been reported.

(Photo courtesy of Free Amanda Echanis Network)

Prisoners’ rights group Kapatid reiterated its call for the release of the female activist, citing the reported 17 prisoners who tested postive for COVID-19 at the Cagayan Provincial Jail.

It is concerned that Echanis and her baby are staying with nine of these infected prisoners in prison.

“While we call on the local government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among prisoners and jail personnel, we assert that Echanis should be released with her infant at the soonest possible time as children below age 1 are believed to be at higher risk of severe illness,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said.

Echanis is the daughter of slain National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Randall Echanis. She was arrested in December, 2020 for illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

She is an organizer of women peasants’ group Amihan, which also called for her release under humanitarian grounds.

Lim said they hoped that the government will not use a “release the child” argument since “separating a breastfed infant from his mother is not an option and in fact is harmful and inhumane.”

Kapatid urged the goverment to act immediately as the situation of the mother and her baby in jail poses health risk, especially if it is “overly congested, poorly equipped prison conditions where social distancing is impossible and mass testing for COVID-19 is ignored.”

The group called for the immediate release of Echanis, saying that her case is reminiscent of what happened to another female activist, Reina Mae Nasino, and her newborn baby River.

River died of respiratory failure after she was separated from her mother.

Lim asserted that continuous breastfeeding is “essential for survival.” The government should have learned a lesson from the tragic story of Reina Mae and her baby daughter, she said.