'Parang parusa': Detained student activist separated from month-old baby

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 13 2020 09:42 PM

MANILA - There was little 23-year-old Reina Mae Nasino could do as she watched from a distance her 1-month-old baby, wrapped in a blanket, handed over to her mother just after lunch Thursday.

In between sobs, she could only wave her goodbye; the cold steel jail bars between them serving as a reminder she won’t be seeing her baby River any time soon.

After failing to secure any remedy from the courts, Nasino was separated from her baby.

“Umiiyak na 'yung anak ko. Parang parusa daw sa kaniya 'yung nangyari,” Nasino’s mother, Marites Asis, said of her last conversation with her daughter over the phone. 

“Kaya nakikiusap po ako na sana matulungan niyo po kami, matulungan niyo po anak ko na magkasama sila, na makalabas siya, makalaya siya.”

For a little over a month now, Nasino, a political prisoner detained at the Manila City Jail, had fought to keep River by her side.

Shortly after giving birth on July 1, her lawyers asked a Manila court to allow her to stay for a year in a hospital so she could take care of her baby.

That motion was shot down after the Manila City Jail Female Dorm OIC warden Chief Inspector Ma. Ignacia Monteron said they do not have enough personnel to keep watch over Nasino for a year.

Her motion for reconsideration seeking to allow the baby to stay inside the jail with her for a year was also rejected by the same court, the jail warden saying a prison is no place for a baby.

Monteron also cited a memorandum from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) limiting such stay to only up to a month.

“Hindi talaga pupuwede kasi wala naman kaming facility para sa baby kasi hindi naman naka-design itong facility na 'to na parang meron para sa isang bata. Lahat nga ng mga ipinapanganak, sa ospital pa lang, bago makarating dito sa jail… kinukuha na ng mga relatives,” Monteron told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.

Nasino, a student activist, is facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges following her arrest in the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Tondo, Manila in November last year. She has maintained the charges are trumped up and politically-motivated.

Already pregnant at the time of her arrest, Nasino joined 21 other petitioners in urging the Supreme Court in April this year to release sick, elderly and pregnant detainees -- those most vulnerable to catching the coronavirus in cramped, overpopulated prisons.

That petition still unheeded 4 months on.

“Sino ba naman ‘yung magulang… nanay at bata, maghihiwalay po sila. Ang sakit-sakit po kaya nun. Nararamdaman ko 'yung nararamdaman ng anak ko. Ramdam na ramdam ko,” Asis said of her daughter’s plight.

“Kaya gusto ko po sana, nandito na apo ko, sana makalabas din po sana anak ko. Kaya nananawagan po ako sa Supreme Court, ang desisyon niyo po, palayain niyo na po ‘yung anak ko. Ibaba niyo na po 'yung desisyon para sa kaniya para makasama niya po anak niya,” she pleaded.

She and members of KAPATID, a support group composed of families and friends of political prisoners, have trooped to the Supreme Court at least thrice, submitting a letter addressed to Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to speed up the resolution of the petition.

In a press conference in June this year, Peralta had attributed the delay to the absence of the justice assigned to handle the case, who was at that time stranded in the Visayas in the midst of a Luzon-wide lockdown.

The top magistrate then said they hoped to resolve the petition the next Tuesday but several Tuesdays have passed, still no word on how the magistrates will resolve a controversial issue.

As the Supreme Court takes its time to deal with the political prisoners’ plea for release, Nasino will sleep for the first time tonight longing for the company of the baby who had been with her throughout her stay in jail.