The Philippine Supreme Court’s delay in resolving a political prisoners’ appeal for humanitarian release has led to the separation of a mother and her newborn child.
For years, the government has implemented health policies that prioritize breast feeding and closer mother-baby ties to improve child survival rates.
A Manila Court, however, denied on July 22 activist Reina Mae Nasino’s appeal to stay in hospital with River, born on July 1, after jail officials said they didn’t have enough guards for the special deployment.
Nasino, 22, had sought either hospital arrest with her child or provision of a special prison nursery due to unhealthy conditions at the Manila City Jail.
Numerous news reports described conditions in the jail as hellish, where cells good for 50 people could host more than twice that number.
Instead, judge Marivic Balisi-Umali favored the jail officials who asked that River be released to relatives, because the facility also lacked the capacity to care for a baby.
“This system has failed Reina Mae. It is cruel and heartless,” said lawyer Maria Sol Taule, releasing a phone recording of her anguished client, who still hopes judicial intervention can keep River by her side.
“We don’t deserve to be separated this early,” said a sobbing Reina Mae. “A baby shouldn’t be separated from a mother’s embrace. I hope we are given a chance to be together.”
“We have lost our sense of humanity,” said lawyer Edre Olalia, National Union of People’s Lawyers president.
“Even newborn animals are not separated from their mothers. This is outrageous and atrocious. And it cuts deeply,” he said.
Police arrested Nasino, an organizer in an urban poor community, and two other activists on Nov. 5, 2019, in Manila’s Tondo district.
Police claimed they found firearms and explosives at the office where the activists were staying. The activists’ lawyers have accused authorities of “planting” the evidence.
Nasino’s arrest and that of 62 other activists around the country sparked a furor because all the warrants for the arrests were issued by a lone judge in Quezon City.
When her lawyers asked for a copy of the warrants, the judge refused, citing rules of court.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta had earlier pledged to come out with a ruling on the political detainees’ position by June 16.
Three days after the target date, Reina’s mother, Maritest Asis braved the lockdown and walked from their home to the Supreme Court to appeal for the release of her daughter and other political prisoners.
Many inmates in Manila’s city jail, mostly from poor families, have spent months in jail without being arraigned, with the national lockdown against COVID-19 holding back an already slow justice system.