NUPL: Heavily-armed guards brought 'fear and intimidation' to Baby River's wake
In this October 14, 2020 handout photo, personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Manila Police District, stand guard over jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino. Nasino was allowed three hours of freedom to attend the wake of her baby.
Kapatid, release

NUPL: Heavily-armed guards brought 'fear and intimidation' to Baby River's wake

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 10:42am

MANILA, Philippines — The National Union of Peoples Lawyers questioned the jail and police officers’ “cruel and inhumane” treatment of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino, who was given three hours on Wednesday to see and mourn her three-month old baby.

Nasino has another three hours on Friday afternoon to bury Baby River, who she last saw alive when the child was a month old.

“It is clear that Ina’s escorts came to scoff at her grief by destroying the solemnity of the funeral with tension, fear and intimidation,” the NUPL said.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, through the Manila City Jail warden, had already asked—and successfully secured a favorable ruling—the court to cut short Nasino’s bereavement furlough from three days to just six hours. But law enforcers also did not allow the grieving mom to mourn in peace, her lawyers said Thursday.

The NUPL, Nasino’s legal counsels, said the BJMP lied when it reasoned before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 that they lacked personnel to spare for Nasino’s furlough, but dozens flanked her when she attended Baby River’s wake.

The lawyers said around 47 jail and police officers escorted Nasino. “The police, armed with high-powered firearms, surrounded the funeral home, while seven jail officers closely guarded Ina inside,” they said.

“But worse than the deception and overkill, was the escorts’ cruel and inhumane treatment of the grieving mother,” the NUPL added.

READ: 'Short-handed' Manila jail brings detained activist to baby's wake under heavy guard

Nasino had her hands shackled except for a few minutes, they lawyers said. They also recounted that whenever Nasino would come near River or she speaks with her counsels and family, guards would flank her. Reports covering the situation in the funeral home also showed that jail guards prevented Nasino while she was talking to reporters.

They also tried to take away Nasino when she still had time left in the three hours given by the court on Wednesday, but her lawyers stood their ground.

READ: Sanctions urged against BJMP personnel for blocking media access to Nasino

“Her guards came looking like they were poised for battle, even as they knew that the diminutive woman in PPE and handcuffs was not a high security risk. Why—and how—would a bereaved mother escape from the chance to bury the dead child she was not able to hold as she breathed her last?” the NUPL said.

They added that the guards overcrowded the wake and did not observe physical distancing. “They arrested her on fake charges and caused the early separation of her baby in jail. What is another act of cruelty and injustice?” the lawyers added.

The trial for the illegal possession of firearms case against Nasino is ongoing.

Baby River’s rights

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines also raised questions in the proceedings of Nasino’s legal fight to be with Baby River.

“The tragic death of three-month old Baby River Nasino highlights the need to do more, better, faster in the justice sector,” IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa said.

Nasino knocked on the gates of the courts twice: Before the local courts, she asked to be breastfeed and be with River for at least a year; before the Supreme Court, she and 22 other political prisoners who are at-risk of contracting COVID-19 inside our cramped jails sought temporary release on humanitarian grounds.

Both efforts failed.

Cayosa said what happened to River raises the question on “why can’t our justice system safeguard the needs and rights of an innocent child to breastfeeding and a better chance to survive?”

“Why don’t our jails have adequate facilities to address the needs and rights of children and women detainees duly recognized by domestic and international law?”

He also raised how the situation raises the question: “Why does it take so long to respect, protect and fulfil human rights?”

Cayosa continued to prod whether there are double standards on “bigger” detainees on such privileges.

This is a point raised by Nasino’s lawyers, how political figure detainees were allowed furloughs to spend their holidays with their families or tend to their ailing family members, while detainees like Nasino had to go through legal hoops to secure temporary liberty even only to grieve for her child.

“Can we not have justice with compassion?” Cayosa said.

READ: Baby River, Enrile's release and the long wait on political prisoners' plea

The IBP president stressed that even babies have rights and society has a duty to nurture them, an issue broached by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier in her separate opinion in the political prisoners bid for temporary freedom, but was not included in the main ruling on the case.

 “Let our concern, dismay, or rage and the tears that we may shed for Baby River Nasino fuel our collective determination and action to improve our justice system.  Let not our innocent children fall through the cracks,” Cayosa also said.

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