CHR, Red Cross urged to check on Nasino while in isolation after furlough
Jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino views the coffin of her three-month old daughter River.
JUCRA pool photo
CHR, Red Cross urged to check on Nasino while in isolation after furlough
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - October 20, 2020 - 3:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — An advocacy group for political prisoners asked the Commission on Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross to regularly check the condition of activist Reina Mae Nasino at the Manila City Jail.

Concerned for the physical and mental condition of Nasino who is now on a 14-day isolation period, Kapatid made the request to CHR Chairperson Chito Gascon and ICRC head of delegation Boris Michel.

Kapatid pointed out that families have not been allowed to visit their imprisoned relatives since March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"Given the extraordinary cruelty she experienced these past few days, plus considering the opposition filed by warden which reduced her three-day furlough to just three hours for the wake and three hours for the burial of her baby daughter, Reina Marie needs regular follow-up to see to it that her rights and welfare and security are protected while under state custody," Fides Lim, the spokesperson of Kapatid, said.

Nasino attended the burial of her three-month-old daughter River last Friday. She was in handcuffs and surrounded by dozens of jail and police officers. She was also given three hours to see her baby inside a funeral parlor on October 14 for the first time since they were separated in August.

Nasino was arrested during a raid at the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in Manila. She was charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, an accusation she and her legal counsels claim are made up.

Aside from Nasino, Kapatid also asked CHR and ICRC to regularly check the condition of political prisoners Alma Moran and Cora Agovida who are also detained at the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory.

Grim conditions in Philippine jails

Deplorable conditions such as lack of proper health care and poor hygiene as well as overpopulation had long plagued Philippine jails and prisons even before the current health crisis.

A Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report quoted the Bureau of Corrections as saying that New Bilibid Prison reported up to three deaths daily from October 2019 to April 2020. Illnesses such as cancer and heart failure accounted for most of these deaths.

"Loneliness, nightmares and accidents" were also listed as reasons for inmates' deaths.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology is in charge of jails and detention centers while administration of prisons and penal colonies falls on the Bureau of Corrections. Both have to deal with cramped conditions for detainees.

Calls to ease pressure in packed jails have grown louder as the pandemic ravages detention facilities. The crisis prompted the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court to craft guidelines to decongest the country’s jails and prisons.

Nasino’s mother, along with relatives of 21 other political prisoners, asked the Supreme Court early in the pandemic to allow their temporary release because they were more vulnerable to the potentially deadly disease. Nasino's lawyers also asked a lower court to allow her to be with River so she could breastfeed her at least until her daughter turns one.

The efforts, however, failed to get favorable ruling from the courts. On the evening of January 9, River died. 

Kapatid stressed that the group’s worry is not misplaced “because political prisoners and us families experience ill treatment whenever government forces feel they need to get back at us for whatever reason.”

According to the World Organisation Against Torture in April, there were 609 political prisoners in the country—47 of whom were elderly and 63 were sick.

United Nations rights chief Michelle Bachelet earlier called on governments to release “every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners, and those detained for critical, dissenting views.”

The government has maintained that Nasino is not in custody because of her political views.

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