Karapatan: Keeping Ina Nasino and her baby behind bars is merciless and inhumane

Keeping political prisoner Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino and her newborn baby behind bars is “brutally and grossly merciless,” human rights alliance Karapatan asserted, as the group reiterated its call for the humanitarian release of prisoners — more than three months after Nasino and 21 other political prisoners urgently appealed on the Supreme Court to grant temporary release for prisoners especially low-level offenders, the sick, the elderly, pregnant women, and nursing mothers amid the continuing onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country’s prisons and detention facilities.

“As what we’ve feared, Ina Nasino has already given birth while the Supreme Court still has not decided on the petition of political prisoners after more than three months. The fact that both Ina Nasino and her baby were brought back to prison merely a day after she gave birth is brutally and grossly merciless. With every single day that prisoners are not released, they are threatening the life of Ina Nasino and her baby, they are seriously threatening the lives of hundreds of vulnerable prisoners as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages our prisons,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Nasino, 23, currently detained at the female quarters of the Manila City Jail (MCJ), delivered her underweight and jaundiced firstborn at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Sta. Cruz, Manila last July 1. The following day, she and her baby were secreted out by prison authorities and brought back to the MCJ despite the hospital’s given permission allowing both of them to stay in the hospital for at least for a week to ensure continued medical care for the vulnerable infant.

Nasino was arrested along with many other activists during the Halloween raids on the offices and homes of progressive organizations last year. According to Karapatan’s data as of June 30, 2020, there are currently 635 political prisoners in the country: 100 of them are women, while 53 political prisoners are already elderly and 95 suffer from serious ailments. Palabay said that “keeping prisoners behind bars — in highly congested places where physical distancing is impossible to observe, where individuals have very limited access to clean water, sanitation, and medical services — is simply inhumane and unjust.”

“The government has dismissed the calls of families of political prisoners by claiming that the country’s prisons are supposedly ‘100-percent’ safe from the pandemic — but where are we now after three months? Hundreds of prisoners are already being infected in Bureau of Corrections and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facilities throughout the country. Prisoners are dying at an alarming rate while their families are being kept in the dark on the causes of their deaths as well as the actual conditions inside our prisons. Three months is more than enough period of waiting,” the Karapatan officer continued.

“Karapatan joins and reasserts the urgent appeal to expedite the release of Ina Nasino and other political prisoners. We cannot let the pandemic take more lives — let alone the life of a mother and a newborn baby as well as the lives of those wrongfully detained for falsified charges. We urge the Supreme Court to act now! Hundreds of lives are at stake with every single day that they delay their decision, and the Supreme Court should listen to our appeal. They need to act now before it is already far too late,” she ended.