The Commission on Human Rights on Friday was disappointed over how the government was dealing with the case of urban poor organizer Reinna Mae Nasino, whose child River Emmanuelle died while she was in detention and who was buried Friday.
“The CHR is deeply concerned with how government authorities are handling the case of human rights worker Reinna Mae Nasino,” lawyer-spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the case against Nasino would proceed without any hitch.
“We sympathize with the accused for her personal loss, but her case is now before the court and the judicial process has to move on,” Guevarra said in a message to reporters.
Prosecutors did not oppose the request by Nasino’s counsel for a three-day furlough for her to attend the wake and burial of her deceased child.
The child was laid to rest as armed guards surrounded her handcuffed mother, a week after she died of pneumonia..
River Emmanuelle, the daughter of 23-year-old urban poor organizer Reina Mae Nasino, was buried at the Manila North Cemetery past 3 p.m., one week after the child died of pneumonia.
Nasino is undergoing trial for the non-bailable charges of supposed violation of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
“We remind the government that, at this point, Nasino remains to be an accused and thus, still presumed to be innocent until proven guilty,” she said.
Even in detention, persons deprived of liberty must 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 accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners or the Nelson Mandela Rules, she said.
“We likewise extend our sympathies to the family, especially to the mother, for the death of baby River,” she said.
“As duty-bearers, we would have expected officers of the government to have put in mind the best interest of the child. The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders or the Bangkok Rules explain that ‘decisions to allow children to stay with their mothers in prison shall be based on the best interest of the children,’” she added.
Before the burial, more than 20 police officers stood outside the cemetery, according to prisoner rights group Kapatid.
However, it was not immediately clear how many jail and police personnel were deployed at the cemetery but photos showed several officers in uniform.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government said the security arrangement was in anticipation of the large crowd that might form at the event.
An official said this was “not overkill.”
Relatives and supporters of Nasino said otherwise, claiming that police “want to hijack the funeral.” They claimed that the funeral car sped up, leaving walking family members behind.
This was after Nasino’s mother, Marites Asis, “had to go down on her knees before (the officers) to plead to bring the coffin down because time is of the essence,” Kapatid said.
De Guia lamented that until the last moment, Nasino’s three-month-old baby River was kept away from her.
“CHR, through its investigation office, is currently looking into Nasino’s case, also considering that there are allegations that her detention is a form of harassment due to her human rights work,” De Guia said.
“Similar to the recent observations of the UN Human Rights Council, CHR also continues to express concern over threats to lives, liberty and security, both online and offline, against individuals and groups working to promote and protect human rights,” she stressed.
Maria Sol Taule, Nasino’s lawyer, filed a manifestation before the court when officers of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology forcibly grabbed her to return her to the Manila City Jail during the wake of her baby.
She said 40 armed jail and police personnel were guarding Nasino during the wake, the incident was an overkill.
The Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 47 granted Nasino a three-day furlough, but amended it to just six hours, spread over two days.
Guevarra said: “I can’t blame them (the government critics) for their opinion. Our justice system, like all systems created by human beings, is not a perfect system.
“It is shaped by our history and culture as a people, our values and attitudes, our institutional structures, and our economic and social condition. its development is a work that is continually in progress, and we all should do our part in it, by calling out those who have the power to institute reforms, by sharing progressive ideas instead of destructive criticisms, and by nurturing an attitude of concern and compassion for the oppressed and the downtrodden in our midst.”
At the same time, the Department of the Interior and Local Government took exception to allegations that the deployment of police personnel to the wake and burial of Nasino’s child is an overkill.
“We are not just talking of security but also ensuring that health protocols are observed. We just anticipated that many people would be attending it. The security arrangement is just proper because of the issue at hand. It’s more anticipative rather than being overkill,” DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing III said in a Laging Handa briefing.
Clad in personal protective equipment, Nasino was allowed to visit her dead child, River, while accompanied by jail guards Wednesday.
Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos initially allowed Nasino three days to visit the wake of her three-month-old child Baby River.