Release of political prisoner urged following death of her three-month-old baby
This photo taken September 8 at the Supreme Court shows Marites Asis, mother of political prisoner Reina Mae Asis, urging the tribunal to release her daughter on humanitarian grounds.
Release of political prisoner urged following death of her three-month-old baby
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - October 10, 2020 - 10:04am

MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Karapatan is renewing its call for the immediate release of Reina Mae Nasino, a political prisoner detained in Manila City Jail and denied the opportunity to be with her three-month-old baby River who passed away last night. 

"Nasino has already been cruelly deprived of her right to care for her child and to be with her in her dying moments," a statement released by Karapatan on Saturday morning read. Nasino is only 23 years old. 

"It is even more imperative to assert the call for the immediate release of Nasino on humanitarian and just grounds, with the appalling circumstances she is facing at present and to allow her to grieve this terrible loss of life," the group urged. 

Baby River was separated from her mother in August, when she was just a month old. Last night, political prisoner support group Kapatid confirmed that the infant died of acute respiratory distress syndrome at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH).

READ: Three-month-old baby dies without reuniting with political prisoner mom

Nasino and her lawyers previously implored Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali to allow her stay at the hospital or the prison nursery with River until she turned a year old. Umali junked their motion and said River should “be turned over to her father or an relative, who could take care of her better.”

"This case and that of all the 646 political prisoners throughout the country, who, like many prisoners, are subjected to inhumane conditions in jail, represent a facet of the callous and brutal governance of the Duterte administration – where the poor and those working on social justice issues are arrested and kept in jail for trumped-up cases or minor offenses, while those perpetrating gross human rights violations are exempted from prosecution and accountability." 

READ: KAPATID: SC 'inaction' on plea for temporary release puts sickly inmates at more risk

"In the case of Nasino, both the local court and the Supreme Court disregarded the welfare of the child and mother when it issued decisions that prevented Nasino’s release, which would have enabled her to care for and breastfeed her baby in a sustainable manner and environment. We strongly take to task the courts for this horrible situation faced by Nasino and for the death of her baby," Karapatan said. 

The rights group also cited the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (otherwise known as the Bangkok Rules) which state that women prisoners shall not be discouraged from breastfeeding their children, unless there are specific health reasons to do so. 

It also emphasized that "numerous expert medical researches have evidenced that breastfeeding provides protection for infants against infections, including acute and prolonged diarrhea, and long-lasting active immunity." 

Baby River was rushed to the hospital on September 24 due to diarrhea and fever and was later diagnosed with pneumonia — she stayed in the hospital until her passing. On Friday, Nasino’s lawyers filed a Very Urgent Motion for Furlough before Manila RTC Branch 37 "so that she may be with her baby during her last days," but the infant passed away hours after. 

Karapatan says police, red-tagging task force 'most accountable'

The group further condemned the Philippine National Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, calling them the "most accountable for this dire state of mother and child." 

"Both publicly flaunted their roles in conducting the arbitrary and highly questionable arrests of Nasino and many activists in the raids last year. The role of the judge who issued the search warrants for the said police operations also merits investigation," Karapatan said. 

Nasino was arrested by police in 2019 on the strength of a search warrant issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. More than 60 activists were arrested in the implementation of the warrant: 57 were members of various progressive groups and were nabbed in Negros on October 31.

Nasino, who is part of urban poor group Kadamay, was one of the activists arrested during a raid in an office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Manila.

According to alternative media website Manila Today, the activists condemned President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 70, which institutionalizes a “whole-of-nation approach” to end the communist insurgency. The Commission on Human Rights has flagged the use of this directive to justify continued attacks on human rights defenders and activists. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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