A political prisoner, who is awaiting a ruling on her very urgent motion for furlough, viewed her three-month-old daughter’s funeral in Pandacan, Manila through a video call on Saturday. 

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(Photo from Kapatid and Karapatan/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Reina Mae Nasino, 23, was reduced to tears while looking at the coffin of her daughter, River, who died on Friday due to acute respiratory distress syndrome.

“Walang mapagsidlan ang pagdadalamhati ni Reina Mae Nasino mang makita niya sa pamamagitan ng ‘video call’ ang katawan ng kaniyang sanggol na ngayo’y nasa kabaong na (Reina Mae Nasino could not contain her grief when she saw her baby who is now in a coffin through a ‘video call’),” said human rights group Kapatid in a statement.

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(Photo from Kapatid and Karapatan/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Baby River, who was born underweight and was separated from her mother on August 13, was brought to the Philippine General Hospital on September 24 for fever and diarrhea.

She was brought to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) on Friday, October 9 but doctors reported that she has stopped responding to antibiotics. 

Hours before River’s death, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) filed a very urgent motion for furlough for Nasino, but the baby died before they could be reunited. 

Kapatid Spokesman Fides Lim reiterated his call for the detained activist’s release so she can be given a chance to mourn her daughter’s death.

“There is no reason for the courts to deny Reina Mae her right to visit the wake of her child and give her temporary freedom when it’s the least they can do as an act of justice to redress the multiple injuries done to her, which include what could have been the preventable death of her child had a judge acted without bias,” he said in a statement released on Sunday, October 11.

Human rights groups also held a candle lighting event along Taft Avenue in Manila on Saturday to call for justice for what happened to the mother and child.

“Nasino has already been cruelly deprived of her right to care for her child and to be with her in her dying moments. It is even more imperative to assert the call for the immediate release of Nasino on humanitarian and just grounds, with the appalling circumstances she is facing at present and to allow her to grieve this terrible loss of life,” Karapatan said in a statement on Saturday.

Both the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) and the Supreme Court (SC), as well as the Philippine National Police and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, must be held accountable for River’s tragic death, the group said.

Nasino, along with two other activists, were arrested after police reportedly found them with firearms and explosives at the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Manila Office in Tondo, Manila in November 2019.

She gave birth to River on July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Medical Hospital and was returned to the Manila City Jail 48 hours later.

Prior to this, Nasino filed a petition before the Manila RTC to allow her to breastfeed her daughter for at least a year at the hospital or a prison nursery. She said her cell is not a safe environment amid overcrowding issues and the risk of contracting the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

Citing the Manila City Jail officer-in-charge, Manila RTC Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali denied Nasino’s motion, saying that the jail has “very limited resources” for River’s care.

The detained activist was ordered to turn over her child to her relatives on August 13.

Nasino was also among 22 elderly and medically-vulnerable detainees who appealed to the SC for their compassionate release amid the COVID-19 pandemic on April 8.

Five months after the petition was filed, the SC said trial courts shall decide on their temporary release. 

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