The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on 7 January 2023 condemned the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for abducting at least four pregnant women “with the aim of using them against the New People’s Army (NPA)” to surrender.
The 402nd Infantry Brigade of the AFP abducted and kept hostage NPA fighters Cherilyn Rebita (Ka Jan), and Jackilyn Egtob (Ka Jane) together with a civilian Roselle Polinar. Rebita and Polinar were both pregnant at the time while Egtob was recuperating from injuries and was on medical leave according to the CPP.
The three were detained by AFP troops in a safe house in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte, Mindanao. While under detention, “they were subjected to mental torture with constant threats to their lives and their families,” said the CPP. Their families were not informed nor were charges filed against the three.
On 10 October 2022, Rebita gave birth to her daughter, Baby Rhea at the San Vicente Birthing Clinic. On October 12, Polinar also gave birth.
The CPP recounts that shortly after giving birth, Rebita together with Egtob were forcibly instructed by the military to return to their NPA unit and convince other NPA fighters to surrender while holding Baby Rhea hostage. The CPP also said the AFP threatened to harm Polinar if Rebit and Egtob were to “double-cross” them.
On 3 November 2022, Rebita and Egtob were brought to a rendezvous point in Butuan City where they met two other NPA fighters Aurily Havana who is pregnant, and Jennifer Bi-nungkasan who was scheduled to go on medical leave, the CPP said in a statement. “That was the last time the two pregnant women were seen. The infants they would give birth to are now also considered victims of disappearance under military custody.
“It is the obligation of parties involved in the armed conflict to reunite families separated by the armed conflict. It is highly illegal for any power to change the personal status or status of a child’s family…all these form war crimes,” said the CPP.
On 7 January 2023, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) presented Havana, Bi-nungkasan and Polinar to the public as surenderees.
After Rebita and Egtob rejoined their NPA unit, they posted a video on 28 December 2022 where they revealed their experience and called for the release of Baby Rhea. Public pressure to release the baby mounted and a few days after, Baby Rhea was brought by a woman to her grandmother.
The campaign to release Polinar and her baby, Havana and Bi-nungkasan is still ongoing, according to CPP.