Palace 'respects' security set-up at funeral of jailed activist's baby

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2020 06:22 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2020 12:31 AM

Detained Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino, in a hazmat suit for protection against the coronavirus, opens her three-month-old daughter's coffin, who died while she was in jail, in Manila North Cemetery, Oct. 16, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - Malacañang said Monday it respected the security arrangement during the funeral of the daughter of a jailed activist, as it emphasized that President Rodrigo Duterte "does not micromanage."

Heavily armed prison officials guarding Reina Mae Nasino last Friday refused to uncuff her despite pleas from her family and human rights supporters, who have decried what they described as inhumane treatment of Nasino and other mothers in Philippine jails.

"President Rodrigo Duterte does not micromanage and in matters of securing an accused facing a non-bailable offense, the President can never substitute his judgement from that of the commander on the ground," said his spokesperson Harry Roque. 

"We respect po whatever decision of the commander may have been on the ground. If he felt that such security arrangement was necessary, so be it," he told reporters. 

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"We were denied the chance to be together. I did not even see your laughter," said the 23-year-old Nasino, who was seen crying in front of her daughter River's tiny white coffin.

A local court granted Nasino a 3-day furlough to attend the wake and funeral of her daughter.

Nasino, a member of the urban poverty group Kadamay, was arrested in November 2019 with two others for unlawful possession of firearms - charges she said were trumped up and part of a crackdown against left-leaning activists.

In April, she petitioned the Supreme Court to release her from jail on humanitarian grounds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

She gave birth while in jail in July, but her baby was removed from her care and brought to her mother in August. The following month, her baby became sick and was hospitalized, prompting calls for mother and child to be reunited. 

Protesters hold placards calling for justice outside the Manila North Cemetery where Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino attended the burial of her three-month-old baby River, who died while she was in jail, in Manila, Oct. 16, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters 

Wearing a full-body personal protective equipment suit while standing in the heat of the sun, Nasino told her baby: "I hope we will be the last to experience this."

The solemn occasion turned chaotic as police officers in camouflage uniforms dispersed the funeral procession and told the hearse carrying the coffin to speed up, forcing mourners to run after the vehicle.

"I thought we would have a proper burial with family and friends, but I was traumatized. My other daughter nearly fainted while chasing the car," said Nasino's mother, Marites.

"I am so angry that we could not even give my grandchild a proper procession and we could not even play the music she liked." 

- With reports from Reuters; Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News