The family and supporters of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino were prevented by authorities from seeing or talking to her on her 14th day of quarantine at the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory on Wednesday.
Prison guards also refused to accept the food, flowers, face masks, and letter they brought for Nasino, citing health concerns amid the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, leaving the visitors no choice but to leave the flowers at the jail’s gate.
In her letter to Nasino, Marites Asis urged her daughter to remain strong while mourning the death of her three-month-old baby River.
“Sabi mo hindi ito ang kawakasan ng buhay. Need natin ang magpaka-tatag para kay baby. Alam kong hindi ibibigay ng Diyos ang ganitong problema na hindi natin makakaya. Ang anak mo ang magbibigay-daan para makamit natin ang hustisya (You were the one who said that life does not end here. We need to be strong for the baby. I know that God will not give us this problem if we cannot handle it. Your child will be the way for us to get justice),” she wrote.
“Inah, kapit lang, ha? Hindi tayo pababayaan ng Diyos. Hindi kita susukuan at hindi ako mapapagod na ipaglaban ka, anak (Inah, just keep holding on, okay? God will not abandon us. I will not give up on you and I will not get tired of fighting for you, my child),” she added.
The jailed activist was placed under a 21-day quarantine after she visited and attended the wake and burial of her infant daughter during her six-hour furlough on October 14 and 16.
Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, said Nasino was also prevented from privately speaking with her family and counsels while under quarantine.
“There is no reason especially why the prison authorities will not allow us to send food, flowers and solace to Reina Mae at this lowest point in her life,” Kapatid Spokesperson Fides Lim said in a statement issued Wednesday.
“We cannot help but worry especially for Reina Mae who experienced extraordinary cruelty. Even now, her lawyers are put on loudspeaker when they talk to her and inquire about her condition. This is a violation of the right of privileged communication between a client and counsel, which leads us to ask—why are jail authorities doing this?” she added.
Lim earlier wrote to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), asking them to regularly check on Nasino’s condition to ensure her physical safety during her quarantine.
The activist-mother’s counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) also filed at least two manifestations before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) recounting the “cruel, inhumane, and degrading” treatment that she received from her escorts during her furlough.
They also vowed to take legal action against authorities who “disrespected” River’s wake and burial.
Nasino, along with two other activists, was already pregnant with River when she was arrested in November 2019 for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives at the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Manila Office in Tondo, Manila.
She gave birth to her underweight daughter on July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Medical Hospital and was returned to the Manila City Jail 48 hours later.
On August 13, the activist-mother was ordered to turn her child over to her relatives after Manila RTC Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali denied her motion to stay with River at the hospital or a prison nursery for at least a year for breastfeeding purposes.
Balisi-Umali said the Manila City Jail had very limited resources for the care of her child.
River was admitted at the Philippine General Hospital for fever and diarrhea on September 24. She was placed in the intensive care unit on October 9 where she died a few hours later.
A few hours before her daughter died, Nasino filed a very urgent motion for furlough so she can be with her child in her dying moments.
On October 13, Manila RTC Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos granted her three full days from October 14 to 16 to be by her daughter’s side during the wake and burial.
But the next day, they cut Nasino’ furlough down to only six hours from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on October 14 and 16 after receiving opposition from the Manila City Jail, that cited its lack of personnel, health concerns, and a guideline stating that detainees can only be at their loved ones’ burial and wake for a maximum of three hours.
For both the wake and the funeral, Nasino was clad in a full set of personal protective equipment, handcuffed, and flanked by numerous uniformed personnel.
During the wake, her escorts tried to pull her away twice before her time was up, eventually escorting her out with 20 minutes to spare before 4 p.m.
On October 16, Asis had to kneel and beg in front of the police to allow them to hold funeral at 11:30 a.m. The cops wanted to delay it until 1 p.m.
Police also sped off with River’s hearse to the Manila North Cemetery, leaving her family behind and thwarting activists’ plan to conduct a caravan around the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals before burying her at the cemetery.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Philippine National Police, and Department of Interior and Local Government, among others, defended the uniformed personnel’s actions, saying that they were only ensuring order and safety during the wake and burial. They also denied that the number of personnel deployed was “overkill.”