activist groups in PH

Manila court acquits Reina Mae Nasino, others of criminal charges

Jairo Bolledo

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Manila court acquits Reina Mae Nasino, others of criminal charges

FOR BABY RIVER. Along with her mother and aunt, Reina Mae Nasino (in black shirt) offers prayers and lights candles at the tomb of her child Baby River at the Manila North cemetery on December 23, 2022, a day after she was released on bail.

(1st UPDATE) Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 clears Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista, and Alma Moran of illegal possession of firearms and explosives due to the prosecution's failure to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt

MANILA, Philippines – A Manila court acquitted activist Reina Mae Nasino and her companion of charges pertaining to illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

In a decision dated July 17, but made public only on Thursday, July 27, Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 Presiding Judge John Benedict Medina granted Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista, and Alma Moran the demurrer to evidence.

“Therefore, the accused should be acquitted of the offenses charged. WHEREFORE, in light of all the foregoing, the Court hereby GRANTS the Joint Motion for Reconsideration filed by accused Ram Carlo Bautista y Paculba, Alma Moran y Estrada and Reina Mae Nasino y Asis. The Court’s Order dated 21 June 2023 is SET ASIDE, and the demurrer to evidence is hereby GRANTED for insufficiency of evidence,” the decision read.

The granting of the demurrer to evidence has the same effect as an acquittal. Presiding Judge Medina added that the accused were also cleared of the charges for the prosecution’s failure to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Nasino was already out of jail when she was acquitted. Her legal victory is also years late because Nasino’s daughter, Baby River, had already passed away in 2020. 

After over three years of being under detention, Nasino and her companions gained their temporary freedom in December 2022 after the same Manila court granted their petition for bail. The activists’ camp had to post bail amounting to P282,000 for their provisional release.

Prior to that, in September 2022, the Court of Appeals voided the warrant used against the activists, citing failure to meet standards. The court said all evidence recovered during the search were also inadmissible.

Pregnant Nasino and her companions were arrested during a search operation at the office of progressive group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) on November 5, 2019. They were slapped with illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges, but they said the police planted the evidence. 

Nasino’s arrest was only the start of her misery. She gave birth to Baby River while in jail and at the height of the pandemic. Her case put pressure on the courts to apply humanitarian considerations due to her condition. It eventually reached the Supreme Court. 

While Nasino was in jail, three-month-old Baby River died shortly after her mother filed a motion for furlough. Nasino only had six hours to say goodbye to her beloved daughter after the court revised the furlough from three days to six hours. 

Nasino, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, filed an administrative complaint with the Supreme Court, which sought the dismissal of Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali over alleged gross ignorance of the law and gross misconduct in 2020. Umali originally handled Nasino’s case. 

Nasino also filed an administrative case with the Office of the Ombudsman against the Manila police and her jail guards. Nasino accused them of mental torture, which, according to the activist, was an administrative offense. Those who faced the complaint were the jail guards who refused to allow her newborn baby to be with her in prison, and those who were part of her daughter’s fully guarded funeral. –

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Jairo Bolledo

Jairo Bolledo is a multimedia reporter at Rappler covering justice, police, and crime.