Karapatan: Año’s, Pialago’s heartless statements lay bare Nasino's unjust imprisonment as political persecution

Human rights alliance Karapatan said on Tuesday that “recent statements of public officials on the plight of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, days after the ‘overkill’ treatment of Nasino and her family during the funeral of baby River, laid bare the injustices she suffered, including her political persecution and unjust detention as a champion of the poor.” 

The group referred to the statements of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año and Metro Manila Development Authority Assistant Secretary Pircelyn Pialago which Karapatan said “glossed over the facts on how she received harsher treatment in comparison to current and former government officials who have been charged or jailed.” 

Año said that jail personnel were just doing their jobs “professionally” during Nasino’s 6-hour furlough, while Pialago stated that while she apologized for using the words “drama serye” in her post on Nasino’s ordeal last Sunday, she won’t apologize for Nasino’s treatment at the hands of jail and police authorities.

“Jail personnel swarmed Nasino during her daughter’s wake and funeral, not giving her enough physical space to grieve together with her loved ones, and kept her in handcuffs. Was Zaldy Ampatuan — former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao governor, then among the accused and now convicted on the massacre of 58 individuals — closely guarded in the same way when he attended his daughter’s wedding in a posh hotel? It seems that from photos of the event, Ampatuan also gleefully danced with his daughter without being restrained by any handcuff,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay. 

“When former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, then charged of plunder, went on a three-day furlough for the wake and funeral of her brother, did any of her relatives kneel to beg before police officers to let them have a say on the conduct of the funeral march? Was her brother’s casket snatched by police? Nasino and her family endured these forms of detestable and inhumane acts, because they are poor and that Nasino is an activist being persecuted by the current administration. So it is important to ask: are jail personnel ‘professionally’ doing their jobs at perpetrating these forms of double standards of justice?” Palabay added. 

The Karapatan officer asserted that Nasino’s case and that of her fellow activists arrested during the said coordinated raids and arrests during the last quarter of 2019 should be revisited and examined more closely. “Nasino shouldn’t be in jail in the first place. The search warrants used in effecting her arrest and that of others should be deemed invalid. A petition for certiorari lies at the Court of Appeals questioning the lower court’s dismissal of her plea to quash the said search warrants. It is high time that the Court of Appeals acts judiciously on this case,” she stated. 

All 62 individuals arrested during the said raids in Manila and Negros Occidental assert that the firearms and explosives were planted in their offices and homes. Many of them have been released either during the preliminary investigation for lack of evidence or have posted bail, while 12, including Nasino, remain in jail for non-bailable charges. Aside from Nasino, four other Manila-based activists remain in jail – Alma Moran and Ram Bautista who were arrested with Nasino in Tondo at the Bayan - Manila office, and nursing mother Cora Agovida and her husband Michael Bartolome in their home.

“Like all of the 645 political prisoners, Nasino is in jail due to the government’s political persecution of her activism. Painting her as a criminal and terrorist is bad enough; putting her through these cruel treatment with the death of her child is simply inhuman,” Palabay said. 

“We reiterate the call for the release of Nasino and her colleagues, as we demand accountability for the dehumanizing treatment of Nasino,” she concluded.