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FILM: RIVER OF TEARS AND RAGE

“An infant. A burial.  A river of tears and rage.”

A Film by Maricon Montajes. A Kodao Production

Synopsis:

Women’s rights activist Reina Mae Nasino was a month into her pregnancy when arrested by Manila’s police on suspected trumped-up charges. She endured a difficult pregnancy in one of the world’s most crowded prisons and gave birth to Baby River Emmanuel while in detention. Efforts to allow mother and child to spend more time together failed, the Philippine government justifying their early separation to the lack of infant care facilities inside prisons. Denied care from her mother, Baby River died at only three months old.

River of Tears and Rage is film culled from Kodao Productions’ Facebook Live coverage of Baby River’s wake and burial. Amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a dead three month-old infant became a symbol of political repression by a regime denounced worldwide for its crimes against the people.

Director’s Statement:

Alternative media outfit Kodao Productions has extensively reported on many cases of activists arrested on trumped up charges of possessing illegal guns and explosives. Reina Mae Nasino was one such case. She was pregnant when arrested and was forced to continue her pregnancy inside the country’s notoriously overcrowded prisons. She gave birth while in detention and was forcibly separated from her infant child very early. Due to lack of maternal care, the baby got sick and died at only three months old.

Kodao produced comprehensive reports on the drama that transpired during the baby’s wake and chaotic burial. Its live report generated the most number of views and reactions from a shocked nation as fully-armed police and jail guards went against deeply-held Filipino values of respect for the dead and burial traditions.

This film puts together the most dramatic events during a three-month old baby’s wake and burial, using smart phones, consumer cameras and Facebook Live footages. It also includes real time comments from viewers, a great majority of whom expressed outrage at the government’s merciless show of might against its people.

Poster of the film River of Tears and Rage.

The Director:

Maricon “Conz” Montajes is a video editor, filmmaker and a former political prisoner. After being incarcerated for seven years, she resumed her studies and recently graduated Cum Laude from the University of the Philippines Film Institute with a BA Film degree. She was a three-year scholar of the Office of the Initiatives for the Culture and the Arts UP Diliman Visual Arts and Cultural Studies Scholarship Program (OICA UPD-VACSSP) as well as a university scholar. She is the video designer for Huni at Pakpak, a stage play for the CCP’S Festival of Women’ s Plays 2020. She is also the video editor and director of Salugpongan and Sining Sandata, which both won 1st prizes in the 1st UP PAG-AALAY webXHIBITION & FESTIVAL. Her recent work, Sanib Lakas, also won Top 2 Judges’ Choice in Year 2 of CNN Reel Filipina A Digital Shorts Competition (2021). She is a videographer and photographer for Kodao Productions, an alternative media outfit based in the Philippines, and also part of the film collective Sine Sanyata. 

The Production:

River of Tears and Rage is a 26-minute video-documentary that started from a coverage of the crackdown against activist groups by the Rodrigo Duterte administration of the Philippine government, including that of Reina Mae Nasino and, by grievous extension, her three-month old infant.

As the first anniversary of the baby’s birth drew near, Kodao Productions decided to gather its actual video footage of the wake and burial, along with other materials from activist organizations and other alternative media outfits. The film is thus produced from these materials, central of which is the Facebook Live footage that gripped Filipino netizens that fateful day.

The film is a simple retelling of those events. With the exception of the sound designer, its production team is virtually the same coverage team that covered the wake and the burial.

As in most other small, independent and alternative multi-media outfits throughout the world, the production team members are skilled and versed in various disciplines that allow them to produce several kinds of outputs in several platforms.

Severely limited in yet another lockdown due to an outbreak of record numbers of new coronavirus  cases, production meetings during the production of this film was conducted online.

About the producer:

Kodao has received awards and citations from the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, Catholic Mass Media Awards, Pandayang Lino Brocka, Titus Brandsma Awards, Gawad Agong, and Gawad Urian for its film and radio productions. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

From Kodao’s inception until his death last month, National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera served as chairperson of its Board of Directors. This film is dedicated to him. #

(The film’s online premiere today, October 16, is the anniversary of Baby River’s burial. The premiere is in partnership with Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, Kapatid, Promotion of Church People’s Response, Gabriela USA and Malaya Movement USA.)

River of Tears and Rage Full Trailer

River of Tears and Rage is film culled from Kodao Productions’ Facebook Live coverage of Baby River’s wake and burial. Amid a raging coronavirus pandemic, a dead three month-old infant became a symbol of political repression by a regime denounced worldwide for its crimes against the people.

In partnership with human rights groups Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners, Kodao Productions will premiere the documentary film on October 16, 2021, Saturday at four o’clock in the afternoon.

“Go home and tell them what you did today and why.”

“a) grotesque; b) merciless; c) heartless; d) callous; e) inhuman; f) shocking; g) unbelievable; h) overkill; i) all of the above & more.

Go home to your spouses, children, parents, friends, neighbors and classmates and tell them what you did today and why. Then pause and tell yourself in silence if they deserve to be proud of you.”Atty. Edre U. Olalia, President, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers

Journalists, lawyers slam Nasino’s ‘cruel and barbaric’ BJMP guards

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the personnel of the Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology (BJMP) who tried to prevent political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino from being interviewed by reporters at her infant daughter’s wake in Manila yesterday, October 15.

Four BJMP escorts surrounded Nasino to block her from cameras and later attempted to drag her back to jail in violation of the four-hour furlough granted by the court.

The incident caused a commotion inside the funeral parlor as Nasino’s lawyers prevented the jail guards from snatching the grieving mother.

In a statement, the NUJP said Nasino’s visit to her deceased daughter was clearly a matter of public interest as it is part of an issue that touches on some very basic human rights, “particularly that of a mother deprived of the opportunity to nurture her child and, failing that, to comfort her and bid her goodbye in her final moments.”

“The BJMP personnel who trampled on the rights of both the news personnel covering the event and of Ms. Nasino, whose incarceration does not deprive her of the right to free expression were either ignorant of media’s role in a democracy or did not care, not surprising given how the head of state himself has shown nothing but contempt for a free and critical press,” the NUJP said.

The group demanded an immediate and transparent investigation into the incident and for sanctions to be leveled against both the unit commander and the personnel who obeyed what the NUJP described was an illegal order.

Bulatlat’s video of the commotion caused by BJMP guard at Baby River Nasino’s wake.

Cruelty and Barbarity Without Compare

Nasino’s lawyers said the BJMP also lied when they said before Judge Paulino Gallegos of RTC Manila Branch 47 that they lacked the personnel who can guard Nasino overnight and thus asked that her furlough be shortened from three days to six hours.

The lawyers said about 47 jail and police officers guarded Nasino from the Manila City Jail to the funeral parlor and were armed with high powered firearms in what they said was deceptive overkill.

They also complained that the guards flanked Nasino wherever she went and refused to let her speak with her family and counsel or view her baby in private.

The lawyers, members of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), said the guards came looking like they were poised for battle even as they knew Nasino would not risk the chance to bury her child by attempting an escape.

“With their sheer number, the guards were the ones who overcrowded the wake. They also did not observe social distancing,” they said.

“It is clear that Ina’s escorts came to scoff at her grief by destroying the solemnity of the funeral with tension, fear, and intimidation. They arrested her on fake charges and caused the early separation of her baby in jail. What is another act of cruelty and injustice?” they said.

Atty. Ma Sol Taule, one of Nasino’s lawyers, said they know the women jail guards who attempted to snatch Nasino away were just following orders but expressed sadness the BJMP personnel did not understand the grief of a fellow woman who has lost a child.

“Hindi kami pumayag. Masyado ng maraming pasakit ang dinanas ni Reina Mae at ng kanyang anak sa kamay ng gubyernong ito,” she said. (We did not let it happen. Reina Mae and her child have suffered too much pain at the hands of this government.) # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Hustisya, ipinanawagan para sa yumaong sanggol ng isang detenidong pulitikal

Hustisya ang panawagan ng iba’t ibang progresibong grupo para sa tatlong-buwang sanggol na si Baby River Emmanuelle na namatay dahil sa sakit na pnuemonia noong October 9. Ang sanggol ay inihiwalay sa kanyang ina na si Reina Mae Nasino , isang detenidong pulitikal, isang buwan pa lamang ng ito ay ipanganak.

Matatandaan na Abril pa lamang ay hinihiling na ng grupong Kapatid na palayain na si Nasino dahil ito ay nagdadalan-tao. Subalit hindi ito pinaboran ng korte. At nang ipanganak ang sanggol ay humiling naman sila ng isang taong pagsasama ng mag ina upang maalagaan ng husto at mapa-suso ito dahil sa mahinang pangangatawan ng bata.

Nagtipon at nagsagawa ng indignation rally ang iba’t ibang progresibong grupo sa Commission of Human Rights ngayong araw, Oktubre 14, upang ipanawagan ang hustisya para kay Baby River at upang kundenahin ang naging hakbang ng BJMP-Manila sa pagpapaikli ng oras ng dalaw ni Reina Mae Nasino sa lamay ng kanyang anak.

Groups condemn furlough reduction for grieving mother

By Joseph Cuevas

The Regional Trial Court in Manila reduces the supposed three-day furlough for political prisoner and activist Reina Mae Nasino after jail authorities opposed her visit to the wake and burial of her three-month old child Baby River who died last Friday due to pneumonia.

In a hearing today, Judge Paulino Quitoras Gallegos of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 47 changed his original decision and drastically reduced Nasino’s furlough to just 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon of October 14 for the wake and October 16 from 1:00-4:00 in the afternoon at the Manila North cemetery for the burial.

Yesterday, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) sent a letter to the court requesting the visitation to be lessened citing lack of personnel for security.

The letter was signed by Jail Chief Inspector Maria Ignacia Monteron, Acting Office-in-Charge of Manila City Jail (MCJ) Female Dormitory of the BJMP.

Counsels of Nasino from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and her mother filed a Very Urgent Motion for Furlough last Monday, October 12, which was granted Tuesday.

In a text message forwarded to Kodao after the hearing, NUPL’s Atty. Katherine Panguban said, “Hanggang sa mga araw ng pagluluksa ng isang inang nawalan ng sanggol dahil sa mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa kanya, hanggang sa mga huling oras na pwede pang masilayan ni Reina si River, nakuha pang makipagtawaran ng BJMP-MCJ”. (Up to these days when a mourning mother who lost her baby due to trumped-up charges, up to these last hours when Reina could see River, the BJMP-MCJ still petitioned to reduce the furlough.)

Political prisoners support group Kapatid decried the move by jail authorities who cited lack of personnel to guard Nasino and the added precautions their personnel had to implement in accordance with anti-coronavirus protocolas in opposing the original furlough.

‘Unjust, heartless’

Nasino first asked the court to be allowed to take care of her child but prison officials opposed her petition, citing lack of proper facilities inside the Manila City Jail

The court, through Branch 20’s Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali, sided with the BJMP and denied the 23-year-old political prisoner’s motion.

Kapatid decried the decision, citing rich inmates and politicians were granted privileges in jails for far less compelling reasons.

“Being an activist does not make Reina Mae less of a human being. It does not even negate her rights as a person. She deserves to stay at her child’s side until burial. Equity and compassion, simple humanity, should be standard to all,” Kapatid demanded.

In a statement, human rights group Karapatan called the new decision on Nasino’s furlough a form of torture and another enraging and callous act.

“Wala na ba talagang katapusan ang pagpapahirap, tortyur at inhustisya ng gobyernong ito sa isang ina na naghihinagpis?” the group asked. (Is there no end to the government’s torture and injustice on this grieving mother?)

Karapatan added that jail authorities use logistical issues, funding and resources as alibis to deliberately prolong the agony of many imprisoned political prisoners like Nasino.

Nasino and two other companions were arrested during a midnight raid of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) office in Tondo, Manila in November 2019 and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

Nasino was not named in the search warrant presented by the Manila police.

Bayan also said the guns and explosives were planted, as is the usual practice of the Philippine National Police in its operations against activists and offices of progressive and church organizations. #

Indignation rally, isinagawa matapos ang pagpanaw ni Baby River

Pumanaw noong gabi ng Biyernes, Oktubre 9, ang tatlong buwang gulang na anak ng bilanggong pulitikal na si Reina Mae Nasino dahil sa matinding kumplikasyon sa baga. Wala pang dalawang buwan nang inilayo ang sanggol na si River sa kanyang ina dahil sa gawa-gawang kaso.

Tinanggihan ng Korte Suprema ang petisyon ni Nasino na hayaang siyang alagaan ang anak sa piitan kahit isang taon lamang. Makailang-ulit na nag-apila ang mga abogado ni Nasino upang pansamantalang makalaya hanggang pumanaw na ang sanggol. Ang pagkakasakit ng sanggol ay dahil sa hindi ito napasuso ng ina na nagdulot ng mahinang pangangatawan nito.

Nagsagawa ang mga progresibong grupo, sa pangunguna ng BAYAN-Metro Manila ng indignation rally noong Sabado, Oktubre 10, sa Maynila. Ipinanawagan ng mga grupo ang hustisya para kay Baby River at pansamantalang pagpapalaya kay Reina bago ilibing ang anak. Kasama rin sa kanilang panawagan ang pagpapalaya sa mga bilanggong pulitikal at pagpapanagot sa gubyernong Rodrigo Duterte sa kaliwa’t kanang mga gawa-gawang kaso at paghuli sa mga aktibista nito.