A Midwife/Caesar's Wife

(published 08 December 2014, MST)

Teresita Conos is a midwife at the Palo Maternity House in the municipality of Palo, Leyte. This weekend, like everyone else, she expected the worst from typhoon Ruby. Her memories of Yolanda last year were just too fresh.
On Sunday afternoon, December 7 or nearly one year and one month after Yolanda, and after it seemed that the worst was over with Ruby for Eastern Visayas, she said: “We are okay.” 
By okay she meant that there were strong winds and strong rain, but there was no flooding like the one that caused the death and destruction seen last year.
Power was out, however, and she had no choice but to send five mothers to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center. 
“It is very difficult to deliver babies when there is no power,” she said. “Good thing that those mothers were just in labor—it was not their time to deliver just yet. Otherwise, I would have had no choice but to let them  give birth in the dark.”
It’s not as if Conos has not delivered babies in the dark before. After all, she has been a midwife for the local government, handling its rural health unit, for the past 21 years.  Prior to the storm, this particular facility performed an average of  30 deliveries per month. But when Yolanda destroyed their birthing facility in November last year, she had no choice but to make do with whatever materials were present.
It was only in  July this year that the maternity house in Palo was repaired/ rehabilitated, through the help of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).  There were 16 of these facilities in Regions VII and VIII restored by the UNFPA with funding support from the government of Japan.
In fact, before Ruby made landfall in Eastern Samar Saturday night, the Palo birthing clinic was able to deliver two babies every day on December 4, 5 and 6.
Now we are just beginning to see the damage wrought (and still being wrought)  by typhoon Ruby, which is moving slowly as if taking its time. We must acknowledge  that even in emergency situations where the basic needs of all affected residents  must be met, the more vulnerable segments of the population—children, the elderly,  those with disabilities, women, especially those about to or who have just given birth—must be given extra help.
On an “ordinary” day, childbirth is already harrowing enough. Health workers have to be extra careful with mothers suffering from excessive bleeding, headache, hypertension, diabetis and heart ailments.   Imagine then if a woman has to go through this ordeal with the backdrop of chaos, devastation, fear, and yes, darkness.
Conos warns fellow health workers in places most affected by typhoon Ruby.  Be ready with your things. A flashlight is the most basic item. When there is no other  recourse, a baby can be delivered with just the aid of a flashlight.
Quick-thinking, expert health workers can spell the difference between life and death for mothers and infants in disaster zones.
* * *
“Like Caesar’s wife” is a term used to describe persons and institutions who must not only reflect integrity at every step. Perception is as important, and anything that might cast doubt on one’s fairness and integrity should immediately be addressed.
This is the main argument of several family members seeking the inhibition of a Quezon City judge from presiding over their case.
The case is one of ejectment filed against them by an in-law concerning a commercial building. One of the family members says the case is confounding because no less than the Supreme Court has declared them the rightful owners of the building and has even asked the in-law to pay them back P28 million for rentals he has illegally collected. This earlier case has been deemed final and executory.
Outside of this case, said RTC judge has handled several other cases where the family and their in-law were the parties. The judge has consistently decided in favor of the in-law even when his evidence was weak and that of the other party is strong, and against the family members even when the evidence against them was weak.
More worrisome is the in-law’s claim that he has “bragged to the relatives of the family how influential he is to this honorable presiding judge in terms of everything, that is why he was acquitted (on one case) and the (family member was adjudged guilty in another case).”
The family believes that the past decisions in favor of their in-law compromises the the judge’s fairness. “Due process requirements cannot be
satisfied in the absence of that degree of objectivity on the part of a judge sufficient to reassure litigants of his being fair and just,” according to jurisprudence they cite.
They only ask the reasonable thing—that the judge inhibit—and not even to decide in their favor. This is just one case, but no doubt there are countless other litigants wishing the same.
That this does not come naturally to some men and women in robes helps create the impression that the state of our legal system, specifically our local courts, is truly dire.