MANILA— The lawyers of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino are studying the possibility of filing contempt and administrative charges against the warden of the Manila City Jail and escorts who accompanied her during her visit to the wake of her 3-month-old baby on Wednesday.
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) president Edre Olalia disclosed this in a statement, which was also read in an online forum.
“Yes, we will seriously study that legal option. But given the whirlwind of contemporaneous events and issues at hand, we will choose our battles and fight them at the right time. We seek emotional moratorium meanwhile until the dust of the vortex of incredible cruelty and barbarity has settled,” he said.
Various groups have denounced the actions taken by jail and police escorts during Nasino's furlough, calling it “cruel and inhumane.”
NUPL, whose lawyers were by Nasino’s side during her 3-hour stay at the wake in Pandacan, Manila, said jail guards flanked Nasino wherever she went and refused to allow her to speak privately to her family and lawyers, or even view her baby’s casket on her own.
They also pointed out that she was handcuffed almost the entire time, barred from speaking to the media, and that jail guards tried to whisk her away back to jail twice long before the 3-hour period was up.
“Her guards came looking like they were poised for battle, even as they knew that the diminutive woman in PPE and handcuffs was not a high security risk. Why -- and how -- would a bereaved mother escape from the chance to bury the dead child she was not able to hold as she breathed her last?” the lawyers’ group said.
“With their sheer number, the guards were the ones who overcrowded the wake. They also did not observe social distancing,” it added.
Speaking during the online forum, Fides Lim, spokesperson of KAPATID, a group of supporters of families and friends of political prisoners, noted there were at least 47 personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) who showed up on Wednesday, which, to her, belies the BJMP’s claim of personnel shortage.
BJMP and Manila City Jail officials had argued the lack of personnel to justify shortening the furlough granted to Nasino.
Manila RTC Branch 47 eventually amended Nasino’s furlough from 3 days to 6 hours, spread over 2 days.
“Shortage of personnel pero may mga mata tayo na nakita natin hindi lang dose ang kanilang capacity (but we saw that their capacity was more than 12)… but obviously there were so many,” she said.
“Only in the Philippines do you have a mere warden who is able to thwart an order no less from the court,” she added, referring to the Manila City Jail warden’s letter to the court, which led to the new furlough order.
NUPL secretary-general Ephraim Cortez said they intend to file a manifestation with the Manila court on Thursday to contest BJMP’s claim of lack of resources and the treatment of Nasino in the hands of jail guards and police.
“Hindi tinanggal ang posas. Hindi hinayaan si Ina upang magdalamhati. Para lang din siyang nando'n sa loob ng city jail. Tingin namin inhumane ang treatment niya kahapon if in contrast sa ibang personalities,” he said.
(The handcuffs were not removed. She was not allowed to grieve. It was like she was just inside the city jail. We believe it was inhumane treatment compared to other personalities.)
Cortez also objected to BJMP jail guards preventing Nasino from speaking to the media.
“Hindi pa siya convicted. Nagu-undergo pa ng trial. Hindi pa siya stripped of civil and political rights. Hindi siya dapat pigilan na mag-express ng views,” he said.
(She's not yet convicted. She's still undergoing trial. She's not yet stripped of her civil and political rights. She should not be restrained from expressing her views.)
“Masyadong hindi maganda ang ginawa nila kahapon.”
(What they did yesterday was not right.)
For Karapatan, what happened to Nasino was “not mere random displays of heartlessness and barbarity” but policy actions of the Duterte government, which caused “questionable arrests” of Nasino and her colleagues.
“We aver that cruelty, inhuman and degrading treatment of political prisoners is a policy and practice by this administration, considering the seemingly concerted acts of the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the courts — all under the baton of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC),” the group said in a statement.
“We ask: under whose instructions were these acts undertaken? By President Rodrigo Duterte himself as chair of the NTF-ELCAC, who brags about the coordinated whole-of-government response against those branded as “communists” or “terrorists” like Reina Mae? Or are these from any of the trio of doom — Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon or Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who are all acknowledged major movers in the NTF-ELCAC?,” it added.
Nasino continues to maintain her innocence, insisting that her arrest was illegal and that the evidence against her and her colleagues were planted.
Her camp has challenged the validity of the search warrant that led to her arrest before the Manila Regional Trial court and the Court of Appeals.