“Can we not have justice with compassion?”
This was asked by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in a statement it issued on the death and burial of a three-month-old baby who was separated from her mother Reina Mae Nasino, just a month after she gave birth to her on July 1 while under detention at the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory.
Nacino was arrested on November 5, 2019, in Tondo, Manila, and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a non-bailable offense, so she has been detained since her arrest, while her case went through the legal processes.
She gave birth to her baby on July 1 but the court denied her petition to stay with her baby for at least six months and the baby was given to the care of her grandmother. The baby fell ill with diarrhea and a fever on September 24, and taken to the Philippine General Hospital, but she died two weeks later, on October 9.
The court granted Nacino a furlough of three days to attend the wake and funeral of her baby, but the city jail dormitory warden said she did not have enough guards for the purpose and Nacino was given only seven hours in two days to attend her wake.
Nearly 100 police officers, some said to be in full battle gear, and 50 Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel were at the North Cemetery last Friday, October 16, for the funeral. The police denied a request to remove Nacino’s handcuffs so she could embrace her baby’s coffin.
The Commission on Human Rights said it is looking into charges of harassment in Nacino’s detention due to her record of activism. It reminded government personnel that she is still just an accused and, therefore, “presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.”
The IBP also asked questions about the country’s justice system, including the lack of adequate facilities to meet the needs and rights of children and women detainees. But quite apart from inadequate facilities in our country’s jails, the treatment of a mother at the burial of her baby just seemed so contrary to the kindly nature of Filipinos as a people.
As the IBP put it, can we not have justice with compassion?