Andrea and Diona: A Heart-Wrenching
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan
Andrea Rosal holds her baby
for the first and only time.
I think that for non-Filipino readers it’s
important to give a bit of context about Andrea Rosal, 31 years old.
She’s (in)famous for being the daughter of Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal,
the late spokesperson of the New People’s Army (NPA), who avoided
being captured by the government until he passed away. As a child,
at only 5 years old, she was kidnapped by government forces to put
pressure on her father to surrender the armed struggle. However, she
herself has never been proven as a member of the NPA or Communist
Party of the Philippines (CPP). This didn’t stop the National Bureau
of Investigation (NBI) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed
Forces (ISAF) to arrest her on March 27 on the grounds of murder and
During the arrest at 7:00 a.m., she was in the company of a friend
and the house owner of her temporary residence. Both were also
arrested, even though Andrea was the only one named on the arrest
warrant. The agents, composed of both NBI and ISAF agents, were 20
in number and dressed in full battle gear. The entrances to her
residence were barricaded by vehicles, and agents stormed into the
house. Even though the agents were in superior numbers and equipped
with state of the art gear, she (remember that she is seven months
pregnant) was told to “not fight back.” She describes the experience
as being akin to a kidnapping, being completely overwhelmed and
taken away to a temporary detention cell.
Once locked up, she never got a formal interrogation. She was not
even allowed to read the full arrest warrant before it was grabbed
away from her. The agents were at first very kind to her. This
tactic was their scheme to convince her to “join their side.” She
was asked nicely to divulge information on her assumed fellow
NPA-CPP leaders, despite the complete lack of evidence that she is a
member of these organizations.
After their attempts turned up nothing, the treatment changed. The
agents showed surveillance pictures of her, some of them months old,
showing that they could have arrested her earlier if they would have
wanted. The reason for this delay was, according to the agents, that
they were sure that she would lead them to high-ranking members of
the armed rebels. When asked about her arrest, the agents plainly
said that it was for political reasons. She was told that “it’s
because you look like your father.” The original accusations of
murder and kidnapping are vague at best, and most likely false.
She got the obligatory tests for pregnant women, including a blood
test and an ultrasound, done at the Manila Medical Center and was
afterwards thrown into a shared detention cell at the NBI. This cell
was shared with 30 other inmates. She filed a demand to the court
for immediate hospitalization at Philippine General Hospital with
the help of human rights groups, such as Karapatan and Health Action
for Human Rights (HAHR), but this request was denied for unclear
reasons. The need for solid medical attention could be assumed to be
very logical, but not so in the case of Andrea Rosal. After a week
of detention, she was told to pack her belongings. While it was
hinted that she would be transferred to a hospital, she actually was
moved to the prison facility of Camp Bagong Diwa in Bitucan in
Taguig City, a part of Metro Manila.
Here the real trouble started. This prison is already a hard place
in which to live for regular prisoners; but for a pregnant woman, it
was a living hell. Just about everything was unsuitable for her
condition. Thirty-one women, some of them political prisoners but
some of them also regular criminals, had to share a small cell
intended for 24 prisoners. The three-storied bunk beds proved to be
too uncomfortable for Andrea to sleep on as the sheet metal base of
the beds was warped and bended, leaving her no room for her belly.
It was actually preferable to sleep on the ground.
A problem without such a solution came in the form of food. While it
was sufficient, the quality of the food was lacking. The staple diet
was fish with rice, and usually the fish was undercooked or so poor
in quality that it made Andrea (and the other inmates) sick. Fearing
for the health of her unborn child, she often made it through the
day on only rice.
She encountered the same problem with water—called “criminal water”
by the inmates—which was not potable and was very polluted. Even
though she boiled the water, diarrhea was unavoidable. Furthermore,
the cell was on the fourth floor, was blisteringly hot and had a
serious lack of ventilation. Andrea was refused the right to buy an
extra fan to cool herself, and the 31 women had to share two
The biggest problem for Andrea during her detention, however, was
the lack of medical attention. Even though she was due to give birth
during the third or fourth week of May, the medical check-ups by the
prison doctor were limited to measuring her blood pressure and
asking her how she felt. The only real medical help came from HAHR,
which provides health care to political detainees. Dr. Beng
Rivera-Reyes, who looked after Andrea’s general well-being, and Dr.
Cruz, who provided obstetric and gynecological aid, would visit her
as often as possible. Their work was limited by the prison
equipment: no specific tools to examine her pregnancy were
available, and they were lucky if basic equipment, such as a
stethoscope, was allowed to be brought into the detention facility.
Andrea moreover suffered from a weak stomach and was affected by
rashes. While medication was prescribed, the prison’s nurses
actually refused to give it to her as they told Andrea she was
“lying” and she had caused it herself or that it would go away
On May 15, after six weeks of detention, a judge finally approved
her request for hospitalization as she had begun to experience
contractions. In the evening, she was transferred to Philippine
General Hospital in Manila. There she was told that she didn’t have
records in the hospital and that she could thus not be admitted.
They arranged laboratory tests and an ultrasound, which is the
standard operating procedure. Afterwards, she was taken back to
jail, only to be brought back to the hospital the following day. At
11:00 p.m., she went into labor. It was a difficult delivery as it
took eight hours for the baby to be born. At 7:00 a.m. on May 17,
Diona was born.
As I didn’t want to ask Andrea details about the daughter she had
just lost, I later contacted Dr. Rivera-Reyes. While she did not
treat Diona, she could share some of the complications that happened
after her birth. The baby was delivered not breathing and not
moving, although there was a heartbeat. The baby was resuscitated,
connected to a respirator and taken to the intensive care unit.
However, the lack of oxygen had caused too much damage, and Diona
condition’s further worsened over the following hours. In the
morning of May 18, the hypoxemia had caused her to start seizing,
implying brain damage. By the early afternoon, her heart stopped
beating; and after attempts to resuscitate, she was declared dead at
just past 4:00 p.m.
When asked about the correlation between the conditions in which
Andrea had been suffering the last seven weeks and the condition of
the baby upon birth, Dr. Rivera-Reyes could not say with certainty
that it had caused the baby’s death.
However, she stated that, “even if the baby was delivered healthy,
the conditions in which Andrea Rosal had to live have been a
disgrace. She was not in the proper environment for a pregnant
woman; she did not get the necessary nutrition. And without a doubt,
the unreasonable delay after her request for hospitalization at the
beginning of April and the unacceptable requirements that were
imposed to finally allow her to be brought to a hospital have not
improved her situation. The AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines]
says they are innocent concerning the death of Diona; but at the
very least, they are responsible for the condition of Andrea and the
environment she was put in.”
Even during the interview with Andrea, we were under the watchful
eye of her prison guards. A full rotation of eight guards, two of
them armed with submachine guns, makes sure that this woman, who
just lost her baby, doesn’t leave her room.
After Diona was delivered, she was taken to the intensive care unit.
Andrea had to request her guards to let her visit her baby so she
could at least see her. Following Diona’s passing, she once again
had to request to be able to see her daughter before she was taken
to the morgue. She asked that a picture be taken with her
daughter—their first and last since the baby was born. Both times
she was handcuffed to walk the short distance and accompanied by all
eight members of the team.
There is always at least one guard present in the room, often more
as the room is equipped with air conditioning and the guards find
this is a good place to rest from their duties. The night following
her loss all eight guards were in her room talking loudly or playing
with their cell phones, disrupting her sleep and making it
impossible for her to grieve in private.
Diona’s wake will be at the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Church
across from Philippine General Hospital where Andrea is confined.
Andrea, through her lawyers at the National Union of People’s
Lawyers (NUPL), has asked the court to allow her to attend the wake
and burial of her daughter. At the same time, the Free
Andrea Rosal Movement will be pushing for her release in what they
call a mockery of human rights.
When I asked Andrea how she sees the future, she seemed to get a
boost of energy and sat upright: “I will continue the struggle, and
I will do it for the baby I lost until I have done all I can in her
1 Since this article
was written, a court allowed Andrea to attend the wake of Diona for
three hours on May 21, but it denied Andrea’s request to attend the
burial of her daughter on May 22.
* Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), or New Patriotic Alliance,
is a grouping of organizations from various social sectors in the
Philippines, especially peasants and workers. It was formed in 1985
near the end of the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos with more than
1,000 organizations comprising more than one million members joining