Court reduces furlough granted to activist visiting baby's wake

MIke Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 14 2020 12:16 PM | Updated as of Oct 14 2020 01:06 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) — A Manila court has reduced to 2 days or a total of 6 hours the furlough granted to activist Reina Mae Nasino to visit her dead baby after the Manila City Jail warden opposed the initial 3-day period given on Tuesday.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos originally gave Nasino 3 continuous days to be with baby River, the 3-month old baby who died due to pneumonia almost 2 months after she was separated from her detained mother.

Manila City Jail warden Jail Chief Inspector Ignacia Monteron pleaded to reduce the period, citing lack of personnel and BJMP rules giving inmates only 3 hours to visit the wake of a loved one.

Aside from lack of personnel, the Manila City Jail officials also later cited the safety of inmates, saying they do not have enough facilities to accommodate Nasino when she returns from furlough, according to her counsel from the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL).

"Ang dinadahilan nila si Ina ay siya raw high-profile detainee samantalang alam naman natin na gawa-gawa 'yung mga kaso laban sa kanya. She should not have been imprisoned in the first place," lawyer Kathy Panguban said.

(Their reason is because she's supposedly a high-profile detainee when we know that the cases against her were made up.)

“Parang pinatikim lang kami ng konting relief kahapon and then ngayon, eto na, eto na naman, nabawasan na naman. They invoked the pandemic, they invoked the trumped-up charges that were filed against our client as reasons para bawasan 'yung panahon niya para magluksa kasama 'yung bangkay ng anak niya,” she added, barely able to hold back her tears.

(They just gave us a brief sense of relief yesterday then they reduced it. They invoked the pandemic, they invoked the trumped-up charges that were filed against our client as reasons to reduce the time she can spend to mourn for her dead child.)

BJMP and Manila City Jail officials refused to speak to the media.

Panguban shared that despite the Manila City Jail’s position in its letter to the court Tuesday to reduce the furlough to 2 days, jail authorities argued in court to reduce it further to just 1 day or 3 hours.

The 6 hours was the halfway point as NUPL lawyers invoked the presumption of innocence in favor of Nasino.

“Anim na oras para sa isang nagluluksang ina, na sapilitang inilayo 'yung sanggol sa kanya. Hindi na nabigyan ng appropriate prenatal care noon si Ina habang pinagbubuntis niya si River. Pinanganak si River na magaan, of low birth weight at mayroong mga recommendations ang mga doktor for exclusive breast feeding upon demand pero lahat 'yun hindi kinilala ng institusyon na katulad ng BJMP and Manila City Jail,” she said.

(Only 6 hours given to a mother who was forcibly separated from her child. She was not give appropriate prenatal care while carrying baby River. The child was born of low birth weight with doctors recommending exclusive breast feeding but the BJMP and Manila City Jail did not recognize that.)

In a statement, support group KAPATID lamented the unfair treatment Nasino received from authorities.

“[A] mere warden can thwart a court order, invoking the same reasons of lack personnel and so-called health concerns. With all that Reina Mae has been through, that court order of three days is not even enough consolation,” it said.

“If the government, through the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), was able to give big names in politics the privileges to be at their respective family events, the same efforts should be given to Reina Mae,” it added.

The group pointed out that former Presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were given furloughs to spend the entire Christmas to New Year’s Eve in their homes. 

“Has the justice system in the country sunk so low that there is a different standard between Very Important Prisoners and little people who are political prisoners?” they asked.

Karapatan called the reduction of furlough a “merciless act of torture and injustice" while on Twitter, former Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te says imagination, compassion and humanity must come in to breathe life into the law “when the text kills but the spirit gives life.”

For NUPL President Edre Olalia, Nasino’s case shows double standards.

“Security and health reasons obviously apply only to the least, last and lost in society than to the privileged and powerful,” he said.

“We will be watching closely prison officials when they give again the red carpet and pampering to a parade of those who feel they have more rights and entitlements because they grieve differently than ordinary people who are not favored. There are different laws in the universe after all,” he added.