Court grants 3-day furlough for activist mom to bury Baby River

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) has granted a 3-day furlough to activist Reina Mae Nasino so she can attend the wake and burial of her baby, River.

Manila RTC Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos on Tuesday morning, October 13, granted in open court Reina Mae's motion for furlough. Gallegos is the new judge of the activist's illegal posession of firearms and explosives case, after the original judge inhibited.

Nasino's furlough is supposed to begin on Wednesday, October 14, until the burial on Friday. The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) said this is the longest furlough given to a political prisoner to date.

But on the same day, the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory wrote Judge Gallegos to request that Nasino's furlough be shortened, citing lack of mapower.

Jail Chief Inspector Maria Ignacia Monteron aske Gallegos to limit Nasino's furlough on only two days, and on limited hours: 8 am to 3pm on October 14, and to attend the burial at the Manila North Cemetery on October 16.

Monteron also cited the jail manual in asking that Nasino be prohibited from joining the funeral procession, and that she "shall not be allowed to stay more than 3 hours in the place where the remains of the deceased relative lie in state."

Monteron said that the female dormitory only has 12 personnel as their outside force, saying "we are depleted of personnel" to cater to 665 inmates.

"We are saddened with the death of Baby River Nasino. We sympathize what PDL Nasino feels these hards times of her life. But we cannot compromise the security and safety of other PDL who are still seeking our assistance," said Monteron.

Gallegos scheduled another hearing at 8:40 am on Wednesday, October 14.

Prisoners' rights group Karapatan criticized the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) over its request, saying that top politicians have been escorted on furloughs for lesser reasons before, such as to celebrate family occasions.

"There is no reason why the BJMP and government agencies cannot allow just a mere 3 days to Reina Mae so she can be at her baby’s side until burial. Equity and compassion, simple humanity, should be standard to all," said Kapatid.

Former Supreme Court spokesperson Ted Te questioned the irregularity of stopping a court order just on the basis of a letter.

"When courts concede any portion of the efficacy of their orders, they degrade themselves and its a self-inflicted wound that just gets deeper and deeper. Why should the warden get a hearing by simply writing a letter?" Te said.

Baby River

Three-month-old Baby River died of pneumonia complications on October 9. Nasino's lawyers tried to get a furlough so she can see her ailing baby, but the motion was filed as the court closed on Friday. There are no courts on weekends.

Usually, prosecutors are asked to comment on motions even for furlough, but the prosecution in this case just manifested conditions during the hearing on Tuesday.

“We thank the said court under Judge Gallegos for not failing her this time and for giving her the compassion that some other courts have not given her. There is no reason to deny her motion. If big names in politics were allowed furlough, the same should be accorded to a grieving mother whose only desire now is to have a last glimpse of her dead 3-month-old child,” said Fides Lim of prisoners' rights group Kapatid.

Following a Supreme Court decision that remanded back to lower courts political prisoners' plea for bail, Nasino's lawyer Josa Deinla told Rappler they would start to file bail pleadings for the activist as soon as they bury River.

The Supreme Court decision showed that some justices would have wanted a more proactive role for the court to protect prisoner's rights, specficially Baby River's rights, but their opinions remain an academic discussion. The majority decision just says to remand the case. (READ: The role they failed to play: How courts let down baby River)

Nasino was among the more than 60 activists who were arrested successively in a crackdown in November 2019.

"The courts failed her several times – to dismiss the fabricated and baseless case filed against her, to seek the Supreme Court's intervention for the release of prisoners most at risk from the COVID-19 contagion, to stay with her child so she could take care of her,” said Lim.

In a statement before the hearing on Tuesday, Vice President Leni Robredo said granting furlough "is the least we could do for a mother who lost her daughter too soon and under these painful circumstances." – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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