Less than a month after political prisoner Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino gave birth to a baby girl, the court gave the imprimatur for what we have been dreading: mother and baby’s precipitate and forcible separation. Today, the court denied Ina’s plea to be with her newborn daughter to ensure her nutrition and well-being through exclusive breastfeeding.
The court instead granted the counter-plea of authorities of the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory to order the baby’s turnover to a relative, reasoning that their personnel are “depleted” and they have no facility for her care.
We find this latest development in Ina’s case to be the most heartbreaking yet.
Ina is only in jail because the police planted false evidence of illegal possession of firearms and explosives in her home in Tondo, Manila during the service of search warrants that fail, in the first place, to particularize the place to be searched among the multiple dwellings in the given address. During her interrogation at the Manila Police District, Ina was accused of being a “communist terrorist front” and offered a job as an intelligence agent who will inform on activists. She was also not given any prenatal care in her cramped prison cell, causing her baby to be born with low birth weight.
Ina could not help but break down in tears when she was informed of the court’s order during the hearing this morning. She and political prisoners Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran, fellow accused in the trumped-up cases pending before the RTC of Manila Branch 20, also underwent arraignment after their vehement motions to quash the spurious search warrants were denied. They all refused to enter any plea in a display of defiance.
Ina’s ordeal is a missed opportunity to apply clear standards of international and domestic human rights law such as the Bangkok Rules and the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, which recognize and uphold the inherent dignity of nursing women and their children’s right to their mother’s breastmilk. To regard these rights as diminished because the mother is behind bars would be inhumane, and, in Ina’s case, also violative of her constitutional presumption of innocence.
Prison authorities are being allowed to put up excuses for their failure to adhere to humane standards of custodial measures, while convicted plunderers like Imelda Marcos have never seen the inside of a jail cell. Petty violators of dubious crimes continue to overcrowd jails, causing their resources to be too “depleted” as to spare some care to one helpless infant.
Ina’s baby will be taken away from her at a time when only her mother’s milk — nature’s immunity — is her best defense against infectious diseases like the COVID-19. This is unthinkable and cruel as the baby is not even a month old.
We thus appeal for Ina and her baby’s immediate release from prison on humanitarian considerations as we vow to continue our legal challenge to the Tondo 3’s persecution.
Free Ina and her baby! Free the Tondo 3!#
Atty. Katherine A. Panguban
NUPL Women and Children Committee Chair
Atty. Josalee S. Deinla