A mix of outrage and disbelief was how we felt upon reading a statement from KAPATID, a support group for families and friends of political prisoners, about how the remains of Baby River were snatched by police officers during the funeral procession on the way to the Manila North Cemetery. River is the three-month old daughter of political detainee Reina Mae Nasino, whose furlough was reduced to three hours for two days due to lack of jail personnel despite being cordoned by guards and handcuffed every time she was temporarily released.
KAPATID also stated that around 20 policemen from Manila Police District (MPD) station 10 were deployed at the La Funeraria Rey in Pandacan this morning, allegedly “barring people from entering and they are depriving people from seeing Baby River one last time.” MPD director Police Brigadier General Rolando Miranda told Inquirer that personnel from Pandacan police were only implementing social distancing rules. Nasino’s mother Marites Asis begged officers to allow family and supporters to pay their respects.
KAPATID shared in another tweet that since River’s remains were taken from the funeral procession, the march was unable to pass by the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals buildings in Ermita as originally planned.
Footages of the funeral rites and Nasino’s final goodbye are heartbreaking with the mother still heavily guarded and handcuffed until the end. Many Twitter users noted the stark difference between her case and those of politicians who were allowed temporary release when they were serving time in jail.
Human rights lawyer Maria Sol Taule wrote in a tweet, “Hanggang sa huli, hindi siya kinalagan ng posas para mayakap ang kabaong ng anak niya sa huling pagkakataon. Ganito kalupit kapag hindi Arroyo, Enrile o Revilla ang apelyido mo.”
Reina Mae lays her baby to rest at Manila North Cemetery. Hanggang sa huli, hindi siya kinalagan ng posas para mayakap ang kabaong ng anak niya sa huling pagkakataon. Ganito kalupit kapag hindi Arroyo, Enrile o Revilla ang apelyido mo. pic.twitter.com/ygcT71G0Ah
Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Party said in a statement, “Sa mga huling sandali ng pagluluksa ni Ina sa harap ng kabaong ni Baby River, nakaposas pa rin siya at napapalibutan ng mga pulis na walang pusong binaboy ang libing ng kanyang anak. Hindi pwedeng walang managot sa hanay ng mga pasistang kapulisan.”
We vehemently condemn the PNP's heartless & brutal takeover of baby River's burial at the Manila North Cemetery. The remains of River, the 3-month old daughter of political detainee Ina Mae, were snatched by police officers during the funeral procession. #JusticeForBabyRiverpic.twitter.com/7jjCKjVCrE
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also expressed concern over the government’s handling of Nasino’s case and are “also considering that there are allegations that her detention is a form of harassment due to her human rights work.” CHR spokeswoman Atty. Jacqueline De Guia stated, “Even in detention, persons deprived of liberty should not be subjected to any cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment and that it remains to be a State obligation to respect their inherent dignity and value as human beings, in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the Nelson Mandela Rules.”
In response to public backlash, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary and spokesperson Jonathan Malaya claimed that it was “leftist groups who caused the tension during the wake when they suddenly vented their ire on the BJMP officers who were just doing their jobs” and accused these groups of “hogging the headlines.”
While we grieve for Baby River, we extend our support for the investigations on the handling of her case. We demand that the state treat persons deprived of liberty with respect and dignity. We urge the Duterte administration to focus their resources and energy on more important matters such as resolving corruption allegations and improving our pandemic response.