Karapatan: Separating Ina Nasino from her baby is a brutal act of injustice

Separating political prisoner Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino from her newborn child mere days after she gave birth is “cruel and inhumane,” human rights alliance Karapatan asserted, as the group decried the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 20’s decision to deny Nasino’s urgent motion to allow her to stay with and breastfeed her baby at the Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital until the baby turns one year old.

“We are saddened, deeply enraged, and at a loss for words for this brutal act of injustice and utter lack of compassion. Ina Nasino’s child deserves her mother’s care and continued medical care in this delicate stage of growth as a newborn baby, most especially for breastfeeding — and yet the court has ruled to separate the mother and her baby. Nasino is already unjustly detained for planted evidence and falsified charges, and now she has to suffer another injustice as the court refuses to let her be with her baby in her formative years,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated.

Nasino pleaded in her motion that the conditions inside the Manila City Jail (MCJ) are not conducive for breastfeeding especially amid the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country’s jails and detention facilities. In a decision signed on Monday, June 20,  Manila RTC Branch 20 Presiding Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali denied Nasino’s motion and ruled that Nasino’s baby be turned over to her father or any relative since the MCJ “does not have sufficient facility for the care of the baby” and has a depleted number of personnel and therefore cannot provide personnel to escort Nasino in the hospital for a year.

Nasino gave birth to her baby last July 1 and the following day, she was immediately brought back to the MCJ with her newborn child who is underweight and jaundiced; she is also among the 22 political prisoners who are still awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision to grant them temporary release on humanitarian grounds with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in jails more than three months since they filed their petition last April 8.

For the past seven months, 476 convicts have already died under the custody of Bureau of Corrections both due to COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 causes, while hundreds of prisoners have already been infected by the disease in the country’s highly congested and overpopulated jails where measures to combat the pandemic such as physical distancing are impossible to observe. Mass arrests of quarantine violators have worsened the already inhumane conditions in jails, with 3,095 still in detention as of July 19.

According to Karapatan’s data as of June 2020, there are currently 635 political prisoners in the country, with 95 of them suffering from debilitating ailments, and 53 already in advanced age; 100 of them, including Nasino, are women.

Palabay raised alarm that “prisoners are already dying at a worrying rate inside the country’s jails as we have long warned for months, but the government is dismissing these demands, downplaying the number of deaths, keeping the families of prisoners in the dark about the actual conditions inside jails, ignoring the risks of the pandemic to elderly and immunocompromised detainees, especially those unjustly jailed, and even worsening the already inhumane conditions in jails by relentlessly conducting mass arrests. They are treating the lives, rights, and welfare of prisoners like disposable garbage and mere numbers.”

“We strongly decry the court’s unjust and inhumane ruling to separate Ina Nasino from her baby. We strongly reassert our call to grant the humanitarian release for all prisoners, including political prisoners, especially the most vulnerable. We cannot let our prisons turn into corpse factories and COVID-19 breeding grounds: prisoners still have rights and lives that must be secured and protected — and this deteriorating crisis in jails cannot continue. We will not cease in hounding the courts and authorities until they listen to these just demands,” the Karapatan officer ended.