Crime & Justice

Filipino court gives furlough to activist mother for 3-month baby’s burial

Manila, Oct 13 (efe-epa).- A 23-year-old Filipino political prisoner has obtained a furlough to attend the funeral of her 3-month-old baby after months of fighting in court to be with her newborn daughter when she was battling pneumonia.

The Manila Regional Trial Court has granted a 3-day furlough to Reina Mae Nasino to attend the wake and burial of her daughter, River, between Oct. 14 and 16.

She died of pneumonia complications on Oct. 9 after defense lawyers unsuccessfully tried to get court permission to let Nasino be with her ailing daughter.

It is the longest furlough granted to a political prisoner in the country, according to the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers.

“If big names in politics were allowed furlough, the same should be accorded to a grieving mother whose only desire now is to have a last glimpse of her dead 3-month-old child,” Fides Lim of Kapatid, a support group formed by relatives and friends of political prisoners, said in a statement.

However, Nasino did not get permission earlier to leave the prison to visit her daughter when she was in a hospital for pneumonia.

Nasino spent almost all of her pregnancy at the Manila City Jail and was only allowed to leave to give birth on July 1 at Dr. Fabella Memorial Hospital, when River was born at just 2.4 kilograms (5.3 pounds).

Nasino was able to take care of River in a special cell until Aug. 13, when a court ruled that the prison did not have sufficient means for the baby care.

The judges rejected Nasino’s all petitions to care for her daughter in prison or bail.

Police arrested Nasino in November 2019, along with 60 other left-wing activists, accused of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

However, the defense alleged that police planted the weapons and explosives at the time of her arrest.

They denied the charges against her as “fabricated.”

The activist is in prison awaiting trial, like most of the over 600 political prisoners in Philippine jails, despite efforts by Kapatid and other organizations for their release during the pandemic on humanitarian grounds.

Out of the total number of political prisoners, 100 are women, 47 are elderly, and 63 are sick.

“The courts failed her several times – to dismiss the fabricated and baseless case filed against her, to seek the Supreme Court’s intervention for the release of prisoners most at risk from the Covid-19 contagion, to stay with her child so she could take care of her,” Lim added.

The Nasino case has sparked an internal debate within the Supreme Court about the role that the top court must play in protecting the rights of prisoners and in the cases where bail must be allowed on humanitarian grounds.

According to official data, Philippine prisons hold 500 percent more inmates than their capacity, which makes social distancing impossible and hence puts them at risk of becoming Covid-19 hotspots. EFE-EPA


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