For netizens, jailed activist's furlough shows how courts can treat people and the powerful differently

In the face of massive loss, jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino could not even grieve the death of her innocent child without a fight. This was in stark contrast to the light-handed manner in which powerful personalities were treated.

In the photos that circulated on social media, there wasn't a cadre of around 40 police officers escorting Senator Bong Revilla when his furlough requests were repeatedly granted. He was allowed numerous times to visit his ailing father and confined son on separate occasions. 

Without the restraints of a handcuff, Revilla also had unfettered access to hug his father and son when he visited them throughout 2016 and 2017. Back then, he was still detained in Camp Crame over plunder and graft charges in connection with the pork barrel scam.

The court also granted Jinggoy Estrada furlough numerous times.

While Estrada was detained in Camp Crame over plunder and graft charges stemming from the pork barrel scam, the court had granted him medical furloughs, and also allowed him to attend the high school graduation of his son Julian in March 2015. He also made a hospital visit to his mother-in-law Estelita Vitug in July 2015. In April 2017, he was allowed to attend his father's 80th birthday bash. In the photos that circulated online, Jinggoy was seen without handcuffs during these occasions.

All of these happened while Estrada was still in detention over the pork barrel scam.

Similarly, former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan, who was a Maguindanao Massacre suspect at that time, was also granted furlough to attend his daughter's wedding in 2018. The event was held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City. During the event, Ampatuan was seen without handcuffs, dancing with his daughter.

In 2019, Zaldy along with his brother Datu Andal Jr and Anwar Sr were convicted of 57 counts of murder in the gory massacre of 2009.

Now here comes activist Reina Mae Nasino, a 23 year old detainee and a first-time mother who needed time to grieve the death of her innocent child. 

Unlike the other cases that came before her, however, she wasn't granted time, peace, nor privacy when she requested to visit her baby River's wake. This was the case even after the court separated Nasino from her child after birth and when they didn't allow her to visit her baby in intensive care, despite her appeals to be reunited with her.

Kapatid's Fides Lim said he tried to ask the jail guards to remove Reina Mae's cuffs, telling them the activist could barely rise from her seat because she was handcuffed.

"The jail guards flanked Ina wherever she went and refused to let her speak with her family and counsel or view her baby in private. Except for a few minutes, Ina's hands were shackled," NUPL said in a statement.

From an original continuous 3 days, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos revised his furlough grant to Reina Mae and cut it to 6 hours, split 3 hours each on Wednesday, October 14, and the burial on Friday, October 16.

The petition invoked the controversial precedent of granting bail to plunder defendant and former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, but that argument failed as dissenters to that decision refused to concede that the Enrile bail was proper.

During the proceedings at the court, the Manila City Jail argued that they don't have enough staff as outside force to accompany her. They also said they feared Reina Mae would carry the coronavirus back to her detention facility.

However, on the day of her visit on Wednesday, dozens of cops showed up to escort her. According to the National Union of People's Lawyers (NUPL), around 47 jail and police officers escorted the activist.

"The police, armed with high powered firearms, surrounded the funeral home, while seven jail officers closely guarded Ina inside," NUPL added.

At one point, her escorts threatened to cut short her visit and take her away when journalists attempted to interview her.

"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," NUPL said.

Such is the varying treatment afforded by the Philippines justice system to people without power, as a number of Filipinos noted on social media.

Moved by the stark contrast of Nasino's furlough experience compared to that of personalities like Revilla, Estrada, and Ampatuan, Filipinos took to social media to make sense of how the justice system in the Philippines seem to treat people and power differently.

"Human considerations only apply to Enrile, Revilla, Arroyo, and Ampatuan? The law is harsh to the oppressed," raised Twitter user @ninalorriane.

Below are some posts by Filipinos about this on social media:

– Rappler.com

Raisa Serafica

Raisa Serafica is the Unit Head of Civic Engagement of Rappler. As the head of MovePH, Raisa leads the on ground engagements of Rappler aimed at building a strong community of action in the Philippines. Through her current and previous roles at Rappler, she has worked with different government agencies, collaborated with non-governmental organizations, and trained individuals mostly on using digital technologies for social good.

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