The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Thursday (Oct. 15) called for an improvement of the justice system following the tragic death of the three-month old baby River, the daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino.
“Let our concern, dismay, or rage and the tears that we may shed for Baby River Nasino fuel our collective determination and action to improve our justice system,” IBP President Domingo Egon Cayosa said in a statement.
“Let not our innocent children fall through the cracks,” he stressed.
Cayosa issued the statement after having learned of the plight Reina and River experienced.
“Babies have rights and we have duties to nurture them,” he stated.
“Let our humanity rise above our personal comforts or the privileges of power,” he added.
Reina, 23, an urban poor organizer of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Manila chapter, was arrested in Nov. 5, 2019 and was among over 60 activists apprehended by police raids in Metro Manila and Bacolod by virtue of different arrest warrants issued by a Quezon City court.
Charged along with two others with the non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Reina questioned the validity of the arrest and claimed that the charges were trumped up.
“Despite questions raised against the validity of the raids and arrests as well petitions for the release of Reina Mae on health and humanitarian grounds or for continued breast-feeding, the frail and underweight Baby River was separated from her mother barely a month after birth,” Cayosa said.
Reina gave birth to River at the Fabella Medical Center on July 1.
“The case went through RTC (regional trial court) Manila Branch 20, the Supreme Court, back to RTC Branch 20, then RTC Manila Branch 42 and RTC Branch 37, and the Court of Appeals, until Baby River died on October 12, 2020,” the IBP president cited.
When Manila RTC Branch 47 granted Reina furlough to go to the wake of her baby, Cayosa lamented that she was handcuffed during the wake despite the presence of fully armed escorts from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“Isn’t there double standards when “bigger” detainees are allowed similar or even greater privileges?” asked the IBP president.
“Can we not have justice with compassion?” added Cayosa.
Aside from these, Cayosa said the experience of Reina and her baby had led the IBP to question the lack of the justice system to address the needs and rights of an innocent child to breastfeeding and survive; the lack of facilities in jails to address the needs of children and women detainees; and why it took long to respect, protect and fulfill human rights.