Janet and Andrea.
Now this is something I never saw coming down the road. When the first reports concerning the pork barrel scam were revealed, who would have thought that we would end up at this juncture: speculating on the sex life of Janet Lim Napoles?
Triggering this unseemly excursion into the desires of a middle-aged woman and the possibility of sex in a public hospital is the testimony of Napoles' obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Efren Domingo before the Makati Regional Trial Court. Otherwise a rather soft-spoken straitlaced physician, whom I know as a local authority on cervical cancer, Doctor Domingo, upon the prompting of a government prosecutor, conceded that vaginal bleeding, Napoles' complaint, could be caused by "private, intimate contact," otherwise known as sexual intercourse.
Even more titillating was Domingo's comment that "our patient is human, she has her urges," which is a valid enough observation to make of a woman on the outer edges of her prime, but which observers (including this paper's headline writer) took to mean a connection between her bleeding and her "urges."
Were her situation any different, I would say "good for you!" to Napoles, since sex is a gift at any age. But under the present circumstances, the speculation tends to put Napoles, as well as her husband perhaps, under the glare of ridicule and naughty insinuations.
Obviously, we're all het up over the Napoles couple's sex life because the reason cited by her doctors in their decision to postpone her transfer from the Ospital ng Makati to her detention cell in Fort Sto. Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, is her continued bleeding after an operation to remove her uterus and ovaries. Some claimed Napoles was "faking" her bleeding to delay her return to Santa Rosa, while others speculated that intercourse had provoked the bleeding episode.
Lawyer Bruce Rivera, Napoles' counsel, got all hot under the collar in the face of these allegations. Such talk, he said, is "fantastic and even a metaphysical claim because in the first place, what happened was the prosecution asked if it is possible because siyempre (of course) if there is a wound and there is sex, then it can cause bleeding. But the doctors were very clear that there was no physical contact."
He also cited the "impossibility" of any intimacy taking place in Napoles' hospital room, what with "doctors and nurses always going in and out of (the) room," while guards are stationed outside the room and a relative, including husband Jimmy, always present.
I hope Rivera doesn't wish to hold up his client as a new model of virtue and sacrifice, but I do share his concern that malicious talk about his client has no place at this juncture when her health condition still places her at risk. As Domingo put it, she is not out of the woods yet, and that he is still worried "that the bleeding could repeat if the prevailing ambience that provoked it is present." Prevailing ambience? Does he mean imprisonment?
Would that Domingo, or any other ob-gyn or just any doctor or health professional, was present to attend to Andrea Rosal in the final weeks of her pregnancy or during her delivery; and then to look after her newborn, who lived just two days before succumbing to "pulmonary hypertension."
Andrea's case is emblematic of the state of maternal health in this country, where an estimated 14 women die every day due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Captured when she was seven months pregnant, Andrea says she was forced to sleep on the floor of her detention cell, sharing a tiny space with 31 other inmates, and even had to buy her own food, to conform to a diet more suitable to a pregnant woman.
She also did not receive sufficient healthcare, such as regular checkups to monitor her and her baby's condition, which is a basic human right even of prisoners, especially of their babies who are, after all, surely innocent of the crimes of which their mothers are accused.
Shuffled to and from various hospitals when she reported feeling labor pains, and monitored closely by security personnel even as she delivered,
Andrea was clearly subjected to intense stress and tension at a delicate time that threatened her life and that of the child she was carrying.
It could very well be that the conditions of Andrea's incarceration had nothing to do with what caused her daughter's death. After all, Andrea had lived a tough and rugged existence in the most remote outposts of the country, and it is doubtful if she received quality prenatal care even before her capture.
But Andrea's quality of life and health was one she shared with many Filipino women who live in remote barrios and to whom regular quality healthcare is a long walk and expensive ride away, with good nutrition and necessary medications too costly, if not impossible.
There are, of course, key differences in Andrea's case. Even after losing her daughter, she was not even allowed to grieve as she wished, kept to a tight deadline in her mourning, and refused the chance to see her daughter laid to rest.
Other mothers simply say goodbye to their children and bury them without ceremony or even a member of clergy to say the prayers to bid them goodbye. Andrea's story is common to many Filipino women, regardless of ideology or political belief or prominence.
It is also a story in which the villain, if we are to believe the reports, is a composite of Janet Lim Napoles, her patrons in the political establishment, her accomplices and employees, the entire political system that makes corruption on such a scale possible. Malicious speculation is just the least of the punishments such villains deserve.