MANILA, Philippines A famous quote said, no parent should bury a child. In the case of political detainee Reina Mae Nasino, this proves true, as Kapatid, a human rights group, said the police had hijacked every minute of baby Rivers burial.
Early Friday morning, more than 20 police already surrounded La Funeraria Rey in Pandacan, Manila where the wake of baby River was held for almost a week.
Aside from the on-foot police officers, a truck from the SWAT team was also on standby and a firetruck. Only family members were allowed to enter inside.
A commotion ensued after Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim was barred from entering the funeral home. Lim is a co-petitioner of Marites, Reina Lims mother in the case before the Supreme Court that sought the temporary release of COVID-19 high-risk political detainees.
They (BJMP and police) made a spectacle of themselves. The photos and videos dont lie. They should be ashamed of what they did because they have no right to intervene, Lim said.
Most especially, they have no right to take the remains away from the family. That act was disrespectful. All we asked for is 3 hours for Reina Mae Nasino to grieve with peace, free from distress. But they disrespected the right of the family to mourn, she added.
Kapatid said the hearse carrying baby River sped away, leaving the family and supporters outside the funeral home.
The original plan was for the hearse to pass by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, where they were supposed to plead for Nasinos temporary freedom before going to the North Cemetery, River Emmanuels final resting place.
However, the hearse went straight to the cemetery. Upon the arrival of Nasino, her lawyers and her mother, Marites begged the police and jail officers to remove her handcuffs. Even the priest officiating the Mass also requested her escorts to remove the handcuffs so she can hug the coffin for the last time.
The jail escorts did not budge.
Nasino could not hug her child. She made her final goodbye by touching the glass of baby Rivers coffin. She could not even wipe her tears away being heavily clothed in PPE, rubber gloves aside from being handcuffed.
Lalaya ako nang mas matatag. Lalaya kami nang mas matatag. Hindi tayo nag-iisa, panandalian yung pagdadalamhati natin pero babangon tayo, she said.
(Once I am free, I will be much stronger. We will all be much stronger once we are released. We are not alone. Our grief is temporary, but we will survive this.)
Marites Asis, the babys grandmother, said: Wala akong kinakalaban. Sobra na kayo. Hindi porket mahirap lang kami at walang malaking pangalan ( I am not fighting anyone. This is too much just because we are poor and not of big names.)
This is not the first time that a detainee has been given a furlough. Other prominent former government officials were allowed to attend a daughters wedding despite facing multiple murder charges, spent Christmas at home despite facing a case for plunder and graft, visited mother on her birthday despite facing a plunder case and attended a daughters graduation.
Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said the security arrangement is not overkill.
Jail Chief Inspector Xavier Solda, the spokesperson for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said 43 jail and police officers had been deployed considering the expanse of the area.
He said those were deployed came from different jail units and were deployed in compliance with the orders of the court to secure PDL (person deprived of liberty) Nasino and to ensure that there would be no untoward incidents.
Nasino, an urban poor organizer, was arrested in November last year in a one-time big-time joint police operation in Manila and Cebu against suspected members of the communist group pursuant to a search warrant issued by a Quezon City judge. Nasino was one-month pregnant when she was arrested.
Together with 21 other elderly and sickly inmates, she filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking for their immediate release because they are most at risk of getting COVID-19.
In July, the high court announced that the petition is considered a petition for bail and pass the buck to the lower courts to act on the bid for temporary release. However, a copy of the petition was only made available to the parties in the same week that baby River died last week.
Meanwhile, the baby was forcibly separated from her mother on Aug. 13 despite pleas that it is not healthy to separate a breastfeeding infant from her mother. A month later, baby River started getting sick. She was transferred to the Philippine General Hospital from Manila Medical Center after she had shown signs of COVID-19. She tested negative but her lungs failed and stopped responding to treatments.
Last October 9, baby Rivers doctor advised her family to give the mother the chance to see her baby alive for the last time. An urgent motion was filed. On that same day, the baby died at exactly 8:50 pm.
The urgent motion was amended to ask the court to allow the mother to grieve for her daughters death properly. After a hearing on Tuesday, she was given three straight days up to the burial.
However, the court amended the order on Wednesday after the BJMP sent a letter informing the court that it lacked the human resources to escort Nasino.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines through its national president Atty. Domingo Egon Cayosa asked: Why cant our justice system safeguard an innocent childs needs and rights to breastfeeding and a better chance to survive? Why dont our jails have adequate facilities to address the needs and rights of children and women detainees duly recognized by domestic and international law? Why does it take so long to respect, protect, and fulfill human rights? Arent there double standards when bigger detainees are allowed similar, even greater privileges? Can we not have justice with compassion?
Babies have rights and we have duties to nurture them. Let our humanity rise above our personal comforts or the privileges of power, Cayosa said. [ac]