Still in cuffs, jailed activist buries baby born while behind bars
Heavily guarded Reina Mae Nasino looks at her 3-month-old daughter as she lays her to rest at the Manila North Cemetery on October 16, 2020. Allowed just three hours out of jail, the grieving mother remained handcuffed during the funeral.

Still in cuffs, jailed activist buries baby born while behind bars

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - October 16, 2020 - 4:01pm

MANILA, Philippines — Jailed activist and first-time mom Reina Mae Nasino could only touch the glass on the coffin of her three-month-old daughter River as she remained shackled for her last goodbye.

Nasino could not hug her daughter nor even wipe her tears properly, as she remained handcuffed throughout the burial.

Surrounded by jail guards and police, Nasino cried as she lamented how she never even saw River laugh. She promised: “Lalaya ako nang mas matatag. Lalaya kami na mas matatag. Hindi tayo dito nag-iisa, panandalian ‘yung pagdadalamhati natin pero babawi tayo.”

(When I am released, I will be much stronger. We will all be freed stronger. We are not alone. Our grief will pass and we will come back stronger.)

Nasino only had three hours on Friday to see Baby River for the last time.

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

On Wednesday, she was also given three hours to see her baby, in a casket, for the first since they were separated in August. The three-hour period was almost cut an hour short after jail officers tried to whisk her away before the allowed time was up.

On both days, Nasino could not even wipe her tears nor hug her relatives as she remained in handcuffs save for a few minutes last Wednesday.

READ: 'Gross injustice' as 'heartless' execs, court give jailed activist 6 hours to mourn dead child

Handcuffs for a prisoner still innocent

The Commission on Human Rights said it is concerned about how Nasino was treated, as it stressed that she remains innocent until proven guilty.

“Even in detention, persons deprived of liberty should not be subjected to any cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment  or punishment and that it remains to be a State obligation to respect their inherent dignity and value as human beings, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the Nelson Mandela Rules,” the commission said in a statement.

They added that under the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders, “decisions to allow children to stay with their mothers in prison shall be based on the best interest of children.”

“However, until the last moment, three-month-old River was kept away from her mother,” they added.

READ: Karapatan: BJMP, court took away Baby River's fighting chance to live

Surrounded by heavily-armed men

Kapatid, a support and advocacy group for political prisoners, said during the burial rites at the Manila North Cemetery, armed men outnumbered the family of friends of Nasino.

At the funeral home, at least 20 cops stood guard with a SWAT team on stand by; another 20 were outside the cemetery gates. When Nasino arrived, she was flanked by dozens of guards, some of them armed with assault rifles.

Not one of them relented to the pleas of the family, lawyers or even the priest blessing River, to remove the handcuffs temporarily.

Interior Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III earlier said that the deployment of police officers was in anticipation of the crowd that might gather, considering that this involves a national issue.

He also said that the police officers would be enforcing health protocols like physical distancing.

At an impromptu program at the burial, grandmother Marites Asis questioned the number of officers surrounding them. “Si Baby River ay hindi ginto. Tao siya. Bakit ang dami nyo? (Baby River is not a piece of gold. She is a person. Why are there so many of you?)”

“Wala akong kinakalaban. Sobra na kayo. ‘Di porke’t mahirap lang kami at walang malaking pangalan,” Asis is heard saying in a video of her short statement.

(I am not fighting anyone. This is too much, just because we are poor and not of big names.)

Jail Chief Inspector Xavier Solda, spokesperson for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said Friday that around 43 jail and police officers had been deployed "considering the expanse of the area." These were "from different jail units" and "were deployed there in compliance with the orders of the court to secure PDL (Person Deprived of Liberty) Nasino and to ensure there would be no untoward incidents."

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines earlier questioned whether there are double standards for privileges for more influential detainees, a point raised by Nasino's lawyers, who pointed out how political figures in detention have been allowed to tend to ailing family members while they had to go through legal hoops to secure temporary liberty of just a few hours for their client.

The case against Reina Mae

The CHR said that it is looking into Nasino’s case, also considering that there are allegations that she is being detained as “harassment due to her human rights work.”

Nasino found out she was with child after she was arrested by cops during a raid at the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan). She was later charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, an accusation she and her lawyers claim are made up.

While she carried River in her womb in jail, her mother as well as relatives of 21 other political prisoners knocked on the gates of the Supreme Courts to ask for their temporary release amid the pandemic and the high probability that they would contract the coronavirus in the cramped jails.

She gave birth while waiting for the SC to resolve their plea, while her lawyers fought before the lower court to allow her to be with Baby River so she could breastfeed her, at least until the baby turned one.

Both efforts failed to get favorable ruling from the courts.

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

When River died on the evening of October 9, Nasino and her lawyers were still pleading with the court for her temporary release.

They were initially given three days of bereavement leave after the baby's death, but this was later cut short to just six hours following opposition from the Manila City Jail.

Jail officials said they lack personnel to spare for Nasino, but, deployed dozens of jail and police officers on both days of the furlough.

Baby River's coffin was put into a tomb at past three in the afternoon. Nasino placed flowers on the grave, still in handcuffs.

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