Court allows political detainee to attend baby's wake, burial

MIke Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 09:14 AM | Updated as of Oct 13 2020 02:34 PM

MANILA (UPDATE) - A Manila court has granted the request of political detainee Reina Mae Nasino to visit the wake of her 3-month-old baby River and attend her burial. 

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos granted Nasino's request for 3 days of a continuous furlough to visit her baby’s wake and attend her burial on Friday. 

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Nasino, who is facing illegal possession of firearms and explosives charges, gave birth to River on July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, 8 months after her arrest at the office of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Tondo, Manila in November 2019.

River died on Friday due to pneumonia, almost 2 months after she was separated from her mother, who is currently detained at the Manila City Jail.

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers earlier filed an urgent motion asking the court to reunite Nasino and her daughter River for the last time, before the baby was to expire.

Nasino’s lawyer, NUPL's Josa Deinla welcomed the ruling.

“I certainly welcome this and we see this as a significant ruling. Because in recent memory, I think this is the longest period that a prisoner and a political detainee at that, is allowed to go outside the jail or placed on furlough to grieve for the death of a loved one,” she told ABS-CBN News Tuesday just after the hearing.

Deinla said the prosecutor did not oppose their motion but set certain conditions such as the submission of River’s death certificate, Nasino’s itinerary, and provisions for the escorts who will accompany Nasino when she leaves the Manila City Jail for a funeral home in Pandacan, Manila.

The ruling was made in open court but a copy of the order will be released Wednesday. A copy of the order will be served by a sheriff on jail authorities.

“Overnight ang mangyayari. Makakasama ni Ina 'yung kaniyang anak sa punerarya na mismo,” Deinla explained, disclosing that the baby will be laid to rest on Friday afternoon at the Manila North Cemetery.

The closest comparison to Nasino’s furlough is the 3-hour furlough given to suspected New Peoples’ Army leader Andrea Rosal in May 2014, whose newborn daughter died a day after she was born due to oxygen deficiency in the blood. Rosal is the daughter of the late NPA spokesperson Ka Roger Rosal.
KAPATID, a group of supporters for families and friends of political prisoners, thanked Judge Gallegos for “not failing” baby River.

“The court's decision is one of the moves most needed to console a grieving mother and to correct the injustice done to her and her child. From her arrest on November 5, 2019 to the day she lost her firstborn without seeing her alive one last time, Reina Mae undeniably grappled with a lot of pain. 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 Fides Lim, spokesperson for KAPATID.

Lim said she hopes the ruling would have a positive impact on the plight of political prisoners.

“We hope that this will lead to same treatment for other political prisoners because there is no reason not to grant this,” she said, pointing out that the likes of former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Sen. Bong Revilla and former senator Jinggoy Estrada were granted furloughs for various occasions on humanitarian grounds.

But the Supreme Court recently referred to the lower courts the petition of 22 political prisoners who sought the release of sick and elderly detainees at high risk of contracting the coronavirus in congested jails also on humanitarian grounds.

SC said the petition requires a bail hearing which is outside the province of the Supreme Court as it is not a trier of facts and left trial courts to decide the fate of the petitioners.

In a statement, NUPL President Edre Olalia said that while he wished that things did not have to come to this, he thanked “all those who pushed and helped to alleviate somehow a grievous wrong.”

“Now is the time to mourn. And hold her hand. There will be time to take stock, undo what must be undone, do what needs to be done so this will never ever happen again,” he said.

“And more time to seek justice on behalf of a young mother who will bury her firstborn who was taken away from her warm clutches because she was fighting for her future and many more others out there simply asking for equity and humanity,” he added.

Nasino was arrested in the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Tondo, Manila in November 2019, among more than 60 arrested on the basis of a search warrant issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, a day after she met with Metro Manila police Chief Debold Sinas.

She is facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives which she vehemently denied. She has questioned all the way to the Court of Appeals the validity of the service of a search warrant which allegedly contained another address. 

Rights group Hustisya has pinned the blame on the government for the plight of the mother and child.

“Napakalupit ng estado sa panggigipit, gamit ang di makataong batas at mga polisiya na kahit sa walang kinalamang sanggol ay pinagkaitan ng pagkakataon para maaruga ng ina, dahilan ng maagang pagpanaw ni Baby River sa napamaikli ng panahon para mabuhay at sila ay magmakapiling,” it said in a statement.

(The state is so oppressive, using an inhumane law and policies that even an innocent baby was deprived the chance to be cared for by her mother, the reason why Baby River died too soon.)