Jail warden asks to shorten 3-day furlough of detained activist to visit wake of dead baby

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 13 2020 11:28 PM

MANILA — The jail warden of the Manila City Jail Female Dorm has asked to shorten the 3-day furlough granted to detained activist Reina Mae Nasino meant to give her time to spend with her deceased 3-month old baby.

In a letter addressed to Manila Regional Trial Court Br. 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos, Jail Chief Inspector Ignacia Monteron sought to shorten the furlough period due to lack of manpower.

Instead of a continuous 3-day period until baby River’s burial on Friday afternoon, she asked that Nasino only be allowed to visit the wake on Wednesday, October 14, from 8am to 3pm and attend the burial on Friday, October 16.

“[P]lease be informed that this unit has only twelve (12) personnel being utilized as our outside force and responsible for coordinating to other agencies, turn-over of our released PDL (persons deprived of liberty) to their respective barangays and serve as escort duty in cases other PDL needs to be brought to hospital. As of today, we have six hundred sixty-five (665) PDL who are under our custody, thus we are depleted of personnel,” she said in the letter.

In response, Gallego issued an order Tuesday afternoon setting the case for another hearing on Wednesday at 8:30am.

No representative from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) or from the Manila City Jail was present during the hearing on Tuesday morning where the 3-day furlough was granted in open court without opposition from the prosecutor.

According to Nasino’s lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, jail authorities were informed about the hearing, where they could have immediately raised their objections.

“There seems to be no end to the jail authorities' callousness and indifference to a grieving mother's agony,” they said in a statement.

NUPL slammed Monteron for also moving to separate baby River from Nasino, citing BJMP rules that gives new-born babies only a month to stay inside the jail with their mothers.

Baby River died almost 2 months after she was separated from her mother. 

It was Monteron who also opposed the hospital detention of Nasino with her baby, using the same argument that the Manila City Jail does not have enough personnel to spare, based on court orders issued by Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali, who previously handled the case.

NULP also accused Monteron of denying Nasino’s “request to express breastmilk and be given access to lactation facilities in jail.”

“The NUPL will oppose this belated appeal based on a flimsy excuse that can readily be remedied by asking BJMP to augment the MCJFD personnel. Whereas the MCJFD's personnel constraints is not without a solution, Ina's opportunity to see her child for the last time, once lost, will be irretrievably gone,” it said.

For NUPL President Edre Olalia, the warden's opposition is a “puny excuse to clip Ina Nasino's 3-day furlough” which he said “cannot supersede and defy a clear and executory order of a court of law.”

“With the resources of government, does it need an army to escort a grieving mother in deep bereavement and treat her like a hardened armed and dangerous serial criminal?” he asked.

Rights group Karapatan is not buying the warden’s excuse.

“Jail authorities use these kinds of alibis — logistical issues, funding and resources — to deliberately prolong the agony of many imprisoned political prisoners like Reina Mae Nasino. But all these reasons disappear when people like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ask for furloughs,” it said.

“We call this torture. This is another enraging and callous act. Wala na ba talagang katapusan ang pagpapahirap, tortyur at inhustisya ng gobyernong ito sa isang ina na naghihinagpis?,” it added.

For KAPATID, a group of supporters of friends and families of political prisoners, the solution is to appeal to authorities to provide the enough backup to Manila City Jail personnel.

“We appeal to the BJMP authorities led by Gen. Allan Iral to provide the necessary support to Warden Ignacia Monteron if the issues she raises regarding stretched resources are valid at all given the tremendous government resources at their disposal. The BJMP officials in our dialogues with them have repeatedly assured us about fair treatment. This time calls for that and more because of the extreme anguish that Reina Mae has already gone through,” it said in a statement through spokesperson Fides Lim.

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, meanwhile, urged Manila City Jail authorities to withdraw their opposition. 

“Reina Nasino’s detention has been unjust from the very start, being arrested and jailed based on fabricated evidence. But there seems to be no stopping the government from committing one injustice after another,” he said in a statement.

“How callous and uncompassionate can the officers of the manila City Jail be? Has this government really lost all humanity? How could they oppose a limited furlough for a grieving mother?,” he added.

NOT OPPOSED

In a phone call with ABS-CBN News Tuesday afternoon, Monteron clarified they are not opposing the furlough granted to Nasino, but are merely seeking clarifications about the length of time of the furlough.

She said the 2015 BJMP Comprehensive Operations Manual limits an inmate’s visit to a wake to just 3 hours and the court’s order giving Nasino 3 continuous days of furlough will mean she is the only one enjoying that benefit.

“Mag-meet halfway sa situation. Ni-lay down lang din namin ang situation — kung ganiyan kahaba, wala kaming personnel na mag-escort doon,” she said.

She explained that they have a lean team facilitating transfers of inmates because Manila City Jail personnel have been divided into 3 teams with each team locked in the jail for 2 months while those outside are subjected to strict quarantine protocols to prevent any spread of the coronavirus.

Another concern Monteron brought up is how to implement Nasino’s quarantine.

“Saan namin siya ilalagay pagkatapos? Kailangan namin siya i-quarantine.

Sana maintindihan nila yun. Hindi lang si Nasino ang PDL,” she stressed.

Asked why high profile inmates like former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada were granted longer furloughs without authorities encountering logistical issues, Monteron declined to comment, saying she will only base her actions on how she understands the BJMP manual and the court orders, that’s why she asked the court to resolve the matter.

“We have to cater to all PDL (persons deprived of liberty) with fairness. Kung ano ang gusto ni judge, we have to obey, we have to follow,” she said.

Judge Paulino Gallegos of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 is expected to hear both sides and decide in open court on Wednesday morning.