Treatment of Nasino, Baby River violated int'l standards on prisoners, children — rights group

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Treatment of Nasino, Baby River violated int'l standards on prisoners, children â rights group
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.
KAPATID / release

MANILA, Philippines — A rights group based in Canada on Friday said the Duterte administration's treatment of a jailed activist and her now-departed three-month-old daughter go against international rules on women prisoners and children. 

This comes a day after Malacañang said it would look into the conditions in jail facilities and see what reforms could come about as a result of the case of Reina Mae Nasino, who was forced to part with her baby, River, after the Manila City Jail Dormitory said that it did not have the facilities needed to nurse newborn babies.

"Human rights advocates from all over the world send their deepest sympathy to Reina Mae Nasino who not only has been cruelly deprived of her right to care and comfort her child, but also has been deprived of her right to cradle and see her baby at the funeral one last time," a statement released by the the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines reads. 

"I will personally take steps to inquire into this, knowing that there's some treaty obligations that will probably have to be complied with," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday. 

According to ICHRP's chapter in British Columbia, Canada, the Philippine government violated several international standards on the treatment of prisoners and children. 

Specifically, the global rights group said, the Duterte administration did not adhere to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — a human rights treaty to which the Philippines is a State Party. 

Article 3 of the convention states: "The baby’s best interest shall be the primary consideration in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, administrative authorities, legislative bodies, or courts of law.”

In August, Baby River was separated from her detained mother when she was only a month old. Nasino and her lawyers 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.

But Umali junked their motion and said River should “be turned over to her father or an relative, who could take care of her better.” 

ICHRP also cited the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women which states that women prisoners should be allowed to breastfeed their children. Other rights groups in the Philippines have also invoked these rules in their condemnation of Nasino's treatment. 

"Expert medical research studies have evidenced that breastfeeding provides protection for infants against infections, including acute and prolonged diarrhea, and long-lasting active immunity," ICHRP said.

More than a month after the court junked Nasino's appeal, Baby River was rushed to the hospital on September 24 due to diarrhea and fever. She was later diagnosed with pneumonia.

Roque previously said that the baby's death is tragic but that "the president cannot do anything, that is within the jurisdiction of our court." Officials of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, an agency of the executive branch, blocked previous attempts by Nasino to be with her baby as well as requests for furlough to attend the wake.

Nasino was originally granted a three-day furlough after her daughter's passing but this was reduced to six hours — divided between the wake and the funeral — by the courts at the urging of BJMP officials who said they only had a limited number of personnel who could watch over Nasino during the furlough. 

Even as the BJMP said it did not have enough personell to guard Nasino, both the wake and the funeral for Baby River saw heavy police and guard presence. Jail Chief Inspector Xavier Solda, BJMP spokesperson, later confirmed that a total of 43 guards and cops were deployed for the funeral. 

Sister Patricia Fox, Asia Pacific Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines spokesperson, accused the Duterte government of treating furloughs as a "privilege only to be given to its allies and powerful elite." 

Fox was deported from the Philippines in 2018 after the president singled her out for criticizing him. The government said Fox, who had been a missionary in the Philippines for decades, had violated a ban on foreigners joining political activities in the Philippines.

READ: Ampatuan massacre victims' kin: 'How are we supposed to feel?' | Bong Revilla granted 3-day furlough to visit ailing dad

Nasino was handcuffed for most of the funeral, unable to even wipe her own tears. Supporters calling for justice for River were instructed by police not to display their placards earlier in the day and the street leading to her final resting place was rife with tension.

Advocacy group Kapatid said police "hijacked" the procession, as the vehicle carrying baby river's remains sped ahead of her family, forcing them to give chase.

“We note the politics of selective accommodation and the blatant disregard for the principle of justice. Individuals and groups who committed crimes against the people are exempted from prosecution and accountability while the poor and those working on social justice issues are arrested and kept in jail on trumped-up charges,” ICHRP- British Columbia said. —  with reports from Kristine Joy Patag






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