Manila City Jail opposes detained activist’s furlough; another hearing set on Wednesday

Published October 13, 2020, 5:29 PM

by Minka Klaudia Tiangco

The Manila City Jail on Tuesday filed a letter before the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to oppose the granting of a three-day furlough to a detained activist to visit the wake and burial of her infant daughter.

(Photo from Kapatid and Karapatan/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Manila RTC Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos is set to hear Reina Mae Nasino’s very urgent motion for furlough again on Wednesday morning, a day after he granted her three days to stay at her daughter River’s wake until her burial on Friday. 

In her letter, Manila City Jail Chief Inspector Maria Ignacia Monteron cited limited personnel to escort Nasino during her furlough. She said the unit only has 12 personnel and 665 persons deprived of liberty under their custody.

“We are also saddened with the death of Baby River Nasino. We sympathized what PDL Nasino feels these hard times of her life. But we cannot compromise the security and safety of other PDL who are still seeking for our assistance,” Monteron’s letter read.

The jail chief inspector also requested for the shortening of Nasino’s furlough from full three days to only 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Friday.

Nasino’s counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) slammed the Manila City Jail’s opposition, which they called a “flimsy excuse.” 

“There seems to be no end to the jail authorities’ callousness and indifference to a grieving mother’s agony,” their statement read. 

“The NUPL will oppose this belated appeal based on a flimsy excuse that can readily be remedied by asking BJMP to augment the MCJFD personnel. Whereas the MCJFD’s personnel constraints is not without a solution, Ina’s opportunity to see her child for the last time, once lost, will be irretrievably gone,” it added. 

Kapatid, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, noted that longer periods of furlough were granted to jailed politicians.

“A Google search will reveal even longer furloughs and privileges granted by the courts and prison agencies to big time politicos. There is no reason why the BJMP and government agencies cannot allow just a mere 3 days to Reina Mae so she can be at her baby’s side until burial,” the group said in a statement issued Wednesday.

“The BJMP officials in our dialogues with them have repeatedly assured us about fair treatment. This time calls for that and more because of the extreme anguish that Reina Mae has already gone through,” it added. “Equity and compassion, simple humanity, should be standard to all.”

The group also appealed to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) officials to provide support to the Manila City Jail “given the tremendous government resources at their disposal.”

On Tuesday morning, the court granted Nasino’s very urgent motion for furlough, filed on October 9, a few hours before River’s passing, provided that she must present an itinerary and her daughter’s death certificate. She must also shoulder the expenses for her escorts.

Nasino, who was arrested in November 2019 after allegedly being found with firearms and explosives at the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Manila Office in Tondo, Manila, gave birth to an underweight baby River on July 1.

Prior to giving birth, she filed a motion before the Manila RTC to allow her to stay with her daughter at the hospital or a prison nursery for breastfeeding purposes, citing dangers in her cell such as overcrowding and the threat of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19).

She was also among 22 elderly and medically-compromised detainees who filed a motion before the Supreme Court (SC) on April 8 for their compassionate release amid the pandemic.

Manila RTC Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali denied Nasino’s motion, saying that the jail has “very limited resources” for her daughter’s care.

Meanwhile, the SC ruled that the trial courts will be the ones to decide on their temporary release.

Monteron ordered Nasino to turn over River to her relatives on August 13. On September 24, the baby was brought to the Philippine General Hospital for fever and diarrhea and on October 9, she was brought to the hospital’s intensive care unit where she died a few hours later due to acute respiratory distress syndrome.