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Nasino’s case a clear image of double-standard in the Philippine justice system;human rights group

by Dannah Faye Felicio and Jasper Mikko


What transpired before and after the tragic death of Baby River and how her funeral

proceeded without her and her mother being given the privacy granted to high profile

inmates show a clear disparity in the implementation of our laws and in the treatment of

accused individuals, which has outraged many.


Reina Mae Nasino, Baby River’s mother and a human rights worker, was arrested back

in 2019 as part of the government’s crackdown on left-leaning organizations along with

two other political detainees. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and

explosives, which is a non-bailable offense. She was unaware that she was already one

month pregnant at that time.


When she gave birth to Baby River last July, she was not granted temporary liberty and

neither was she allowed to have her daughter stay with her.


Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child — which the country is a state

party — says that “the baby’s best interest shall be the primary consideration in all

actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare

institutions, administrative authorities, legislative bodies, or courts of law.”


Kapatid, a group of political prisoners’ relatives, noted the reduction of the furlough and

the overall denial of the court to give Nasino a chance to tend for her daughter is ironic

— especially since former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada,

were both granted furlough during their detention.


Arroyo was placed under hospital arrest in 2011 due to an electoral fraud case, while

Estrada faced plunder charges and was convicted during Arroyo’s term.


Kapatid also slammed the supposedly too long quarantine period for Nasino, 21 days

instead of the normally prescribed 14 days, being equivalent to a “bartolina” or solitary

confinement punishments.


Many noted that this is a clear indication of the “politics of selective accommodation and

the blatant disregard for the principle of justice as individuals and groups who

committed crimes against the people are exempted from prosecution and accountability

while the poor and those working on social justice issues are arrested and kept in jail on

trumped-up charges.”


The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL, a nationwide association of human

rights lawyers as well as students, paralegals, and legal workers in the Philippines

united by a commitment to the defense, protection, and promotion of human rights

especially of the poor and the oppressed, filed a furlough to allow Nasino to visit her

daughter.


The furlough is a temporary leave of absence without bail, which is different from the

concept of temporary freedom.


During the deliberations, it became clear that the issue has become politicized as some

personalities distorted the request when it was very clear that bail was not being

requested given that the allegations are non-bailable.


Many were quick to point out that VIP treatment was accorded to personalities like

Arroyo, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada, and other political figures who were

accused of crimes as well but were accorded all the conveniences they can be provided

either for a medical furlough or to visit a dying father. Revilla was even given privacy

just so he can have his own time with his ailing father, a former senator himself.


When the Manila RTC finally granted a three-day furlough, media reports noted that the

police were always in very close proximity when cordoning the area and allowing

sufficient privacy for the mother to grieve was never done causing many to lament the

lack of equal treatment between high profile personalities and ordinary citizens whose

alleged crimes can be considered equally heinous.


The reduction of the three-day furlough to separate three hours also added to the

controversy but what triggered the public outrage were statements from Metro Manila

Development Authority spokesperson Celine Pialago when she took to her social media

account to criticize those who sympathized with the political prisoner.


“Yung mga sumisimpatya kay Reina Mae Nasino, pag-aralan ninyong mabuti ang

dahilan bakit siya nakulong at kilalanin ninyong mabuti kung sino siya sa lipunan,”

Pialago stated when she addressed the public.


The insensitivity towards the deceased baby and the grieving mother, as viewed by

observers, have become a major cause of concern for human rights groups given the

disregard to international standards on the treatment of political prisoners.


“No words could ever capture this human tragedy,” NUPL President Edre Olalia

lamented to the press. “Heartbreaking does not even come close to it.”


Olalia further asked what kind of justice system we have. “...nay society do we have to

let this inhumanity and injustice to a mother and a child happen?”


He insisted that “we have not only lost our hearts (but also) we have lost our souls if we

do not feel the rage.”


-- with reports from Reinhard Castaneda, Jerica Sartillo, Shawn Marion Manalo, and

Shantel Kasing

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