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
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
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
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