From 3 days to 6 hours: Court cuts time for jailed activist to attend baby's wake

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
From 3 days to 6 hours: Court cuts time for jailed activist to attend baby's wake
Marites Asis, mother of political prisoner Reina Mae Asis, burst into tears after the Manila court granted their furlough to allow her daughter to visit the wake and burial of three month old Baby River.
JUCRA pool photo

MANILA, Philippines (Update 2, 10:30 a.m.) — A Manila court is cutting the three-day continuous furlough it previously granted to jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino to attend her three-month old daughter’s wake to just three hours a day for two days.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 on Wednesday said that Nasino can only leave her detention cell from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and on Friday, after Manila City Jail officials, in a letter to the judge, opposed the three day-furlough granted to the grieving mom. .

The court on Tuesday morning granted a three-day continuous furlough for Nasino, but the warden of the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory opposed it and asked to cut down the period.

Nasino was supposed to go to Baby River’s wake on Wednesday morning until her child’s burial on Friday at the Manila North Cemetery.

The mother and child were ordered separated in July by the Manila RTC Branch 20 despite Nasino’s plea to allow her to be with River, who was born underweight, and give her breast milk.

The Manila City Jail Warden had also opposed Nasino's previous pleas to the court, stressing their “depleted” manpower to accompany her at the hospital.

On September 24, River was rushed to the hospital and she died two weeks later, without ever reuniting with her mother.

From lack of personnel to health risk

Jail Chief Inspector Maria Ignacia Monteron wrote to Judge Paulino Gallegos on Tuesday afternoon to oppose the three-day furlough for Nasino. They said they only have 12 personnel serving as "outside force," with more than 600 inmates in their custody.

Kapatid, a support and advocacy group for prisoners, said however that during the hearing on Wednesday morning, prisoner officials cited health reasons in their opposition. 

"They are saying that they do not have the facility. Afraid, they said, baka kung anong dala niya pabalik (Afraid of what she might bring back to the jail). They are saying now that she should only be allowed to leave once," they said in a statement. 

Lawyer Kathy Panguban, in a tweet report from ABS-CBN, told reporters that BJMP officials only wanted to give Nasino just three hours in one day to grieve and to see her baby for the last time.

Jail officials also claimed that Nasino is a "high-profile prisoner" and raised security concerns, Panguban of the National Union of Peoples Lawyers added.

Nasino, a 23-year-old activist with urban poor group Kadamay, was arrested on the strength of a search warrant issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert. She was one of the more than 60 activists arrested in a series of raids of offices of progressive groups late in 2019.

Panguban argued for Nasino’s presumption of innocence, citing the trial for the illegal possession of firearms and explosive case against her is still ongpoing.

“They invoked the pandemic, the trumped-up charges against our client as reason para mabawasan yung panahon nya para magluksa, kasama yung bangkay ng anak nya (to cut down her time to be with her child and to grieve),” Panguban said.

Nasino’s legal counsels also argued that the government has provided isolation facilities, as this is part of their responsibility. "Our counsels say that pandemic doesn’t deprive persons of their basic rights," Kapatid added.

It also said that the lawyer for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology also told the court that he has no authority to excuse Nasino from the rules.

The warden’s letter to the court noted that the BJMP operations manual states that “If approved, the inmate shall not be allowed to stay more than three hours in the place where the remains of the deceased relative lie in state. Further, in no case shall the inmate be allowed to join the funeral cortege.”

While the prosecution did not oppose the grant on Tuesday of the three-day furlough to Nasino, subject to conditions, they now say they do not object to the reduced furlough either.



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