political prisoners

‘Let the mother grieve’: Groups urge gov’t, courts to let jailed activist see baby for the last time

Liana Apostol

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‘Let the mother grieve’: Groups urge gov’t, courts to let jailed activist see baby for the last time
Various groups are calling for the temporary release of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino so she can visit the wake of her dead child

Following the death of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino’s 3-month-old baby, various groups including prisoners’ rights group Kapatid called on the government to temporarily release Nasino to allow the young mother to grieve.

“There are no words to describe the anguish that Reina Mae is feeling now. She was denied her right to take care of her child and to see her at the hospital while still alive and was struggling for a chance to survive,” Kapatid said. 

A mother’s right

Groups also criticized the Philippines’ justice system for “neglecting” Nasino, whose calls to be with her dying child were not granted.

Women’s rights groups, especially, were quick to point out the neglect of rights of both mother and child that resulted in River’s death. (READ: The role they failed to play: How courts let down baby River)

Nasino had carried her daughter River almost her entire pregnancy while jailed at the Manila City Jail for the non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the usual charges against activists. 

She pleaded with the court to let her stay with her baby, either at the hospital or at a prison nursery, until at least the child is 6 months old. This fell on deaf ears, as she was separated from her baby at birth. 

No appeal to reunite mother and child has been granted, even when River was rushed to intensive care last September and later died on Friday, October 9.

The denied pleas to connect Nasino and her baby infringed on the mother’s need to care for her child at such an early and critical stage, the groups said.

Gabriela Women’s Party called for accountability from the Philippine government and its courts, citing the stream of events that led to the baby’s death, such as the Manila Regional Trial Court’s denial to grant Nasino’s multiple pleas.

The Ateneo Human Rights Center (AHRC) condemned the “total disregard of a mother’s right to be with her newborn child, and the right of a newborn child to be nurtured by her mother.”

This included the baby’s right to be breastfed, and the mother’s right to nurture and feed her child.

AHRC said the neglect of women’s and children’s rights in Nasino’s situation violates several international documents including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (also known as The Bangkok Rules). These rules and treaties point to specific rights, such as mothers and children both getting adequate pre-natal and post-natal care, and detained mothers getting to breastfeed their newborn children.

‘Collateral damage’

Other groups lamented how a 3-month-old baby had become collateral damage in the Philippine government’s crackdown on dissenters and activists.

Nasino was among the activists arrested in late 2019 in a massive crackdown on the Left in President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on dissent.

For the Save our Schools Network, River’s death is just one of many instances of “criminal neglect” by the government to the health and welfare of Filipino children, citing Lumad killings and displacements, red-tagging of students, and the War on Drugs’ effects on young victims.

Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a group of former political detainees, called for Nasino’s release on “just and humanitarian grounds.”

“Both Reina Mae and her baby, together with their family, have suffered so much due to Duterte’s ongoing witch hunt against critics and activists like Reina Mae,” SELDA Secretary-General Sally Bacarra said. 

Student organization University of the Philippines Political Society questioned how the government can stomach ignoring Nasino’s many pleas to be reunited with her child, while they provided an absolute pardon to convicted killer Scott Pemberton and let police chief Debold Sinas go scot-free after holding a mañanita during a pandemic.

“It is insulting that while the administration is willing to bend the law for those who break it, thousands of political prisoners are denied their basic human rights at the expense of their dignity, and worse, the life of the innocent,” UP Political Society said.

Atty Kathy Panguban of National Union of People’s Lawyers and Nasino’s mother Marites Asis filed a manifestation on Monday, October 12, with Manila executive judge Virgilio Macaraig, who also heads Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37, to follow through on Nasino’s “very urgent motion for furlough.” This seeks to allow Nasino to visit the wake of her dead child.

“The court should swiftly grant the grieving mother’s appeal to visit her dead child and to be present until her baby is brought to her final resting place. For Reina Mae, who barely had the chance to spend a lot of time with her child, nothing will be more tragic than losing what could be her last chance to stay with her firstborn one last time,” said Fides Lim, Kapatid spokesperson. – Rappler.com

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