Tondo 3 must hold accountable those who arrested them–Karapatan

Human rights group Karapatan urged three activists recently acquitted of criminal charges to hold accountable those who arrested them more than three years ago.

Following the acquittal of activists Reina Mae Nasino, Alma Moran and Ram Bautista, dubbed the Tondo 3, by Branch 47 of the Manila Regional Trial Court last July 17, the group said those who conducted, enforced and justified their arrests must answer for their “convoluted and false testimonies.”

The Court said the prosecution witnesses’ conflicting testimonies caused serious doubts, such as whether the firearms and explosives were really found in the rooms they were allegedly found in.

Former Philippine National Police chief Debold Sinas, under whose leadership many activists were arrested and killed, should be among those held accountable for the three’s wrongful arrested and imprisonment, Karapatan said.

Sinas actively sought search warrants against activists from pliant executive judges, such as Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert, whose orders have resulted in mass arrests, even deaths, of activists, farmers and indigenous peoples, throughout the country.

In a statement, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said they welcome Nasino, Moran and Bautista’s acquittal by Judge John Benedict of the trumped up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

“The decision of…Judge John Benedict Medina regarding the case bears out the assertion of the three activists – that there had no guns or explosives during their arrest, and that the evidence against them were planted,” Palabay said.

Arrested in a staff house in Tondo, Manila on November 2019, the Tondo 3’s case became celebrated when Nasino, who gave birth while in detention, lost her child River Emmanuelle a few weeks after birth when they were ordered separated by the government.

The infant’s burial also gained worldwide attention after jail authorities ran away with the remains, leaving behind relatives and supporters. The incident was described as inhumane.

“For three years, the three have endured the subhuman conditions at the Manila City Jail, away from their loved ones and their work as human rights defenders. Three years their lives in prison for charges they are innocent of,” Palabay said.

Karapatan said the other 778 political prisoners in the country also suffer from such

fabricated and baseless charges, nearly 300 of whom face the same allegations from the police and the military as Nasino, Moran and Bautista’s.

“We echo the call for release of all political prisoners who are unjustly detained. We demand a halt to these forms of judicial harassment and legal offensives against activists and ordinary folks,” Palabay said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Groups ask Court to reduce Tondo 3 bail amount

P1.41 million ‘excessive’, ‘humongous’

Lawyers and human rights groups asked the court to reduce the bail amount for three Tondo activists arrested in November 2019 to allow them to spend Christmas with their respective families.

In a joint motion, the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) asked Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 47 Judge Paulino Gallegos to reduce the amount by half for each of them: From ₱420,000 imposed on Reina Mae Nasino and Alma Moran to ₱210,000 each, and from ₱570,000 to ₱285,000 for Ram Carlo Bautista.

The joint motion notes that it is “within the sound discretion” of the Judge to adjust the bail amount it originally set as the 2018 New Bail Bond Guide of the National Prosecution Service are merely recommendatory to assist the courts.

The motion added the three are full-time human rights workers, “earning only what was necessary for daily sustenance,” and they come from low-income, working-class families.

“Nakakalula. Hindi namin po kakayanin yon,” appealed Nasino’s mother, Marites Asis, who accompanied the filing of the petition on Wednesday, December 14.

Judge Gallegos ordered the provisional release of the three activists last Monday, December 12, citing the failure of the prosecution to prove strong guilt against the three activists on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.

The 12th Division of the Court of Appeals earlier said that the search warrant used in their arrest failed meet the standards of a valid search warrant, rendering all evidence gathered by the police raid “inadmissible.”

Political prisoner support group Kapatid said it is ironic that the poor and innocent have to stay in jail longer because they don’t have the money to pay for their freedom.

“But the rich and powerful like Imelda Marcos get a lower amount of bail though convicted for stealing 10.5 billion pesos of public funds,” Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim said, citing the former First Lady’s bail amount of P411,000 upon her conviction in November 2018.

Rights group Karapatan said that while it welcome’s the Court order for the temporary release of the three activists, it found the P1.4 million cumulative amount as “excessive.”

“[T]he humongous amount being demanded by the court is tantamount to depriving them of the liberty they deserve,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

“In the interest of justice, we urge the court to reduce the Tondo 3’s bail considerably and allow them to spend Christmas with their families,” Palabay added. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Manila Court grants Tondo 3’s bail petition

Nasino, Moran and Bautista have to raise ‘staggering bail amount,’ however

The Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) granted the petition for bail of three activists arrested by the police in a raid of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s office in Tondo District in February 2019, including well-known political detainee Reina Mae Nasino.

In an order dated December 12, Monday, Manila RTC Branch 47 Presiding Judge Paulino Gallegos said the prosecution failed to prove that the evidence of guilt against Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran are strong.

Gallegos’ decision follows the Court of Appeal’s (CA) invalidation last August 31 of the search warrant used in the three’s arrest for “failure to meet the standards of a valid search warrant,”

The CA’s 12th Division added that “all evidence procured by virtue thereof are deemed inadmissible.”

The warrant was issued by Quezon City Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert who had been called a “one person factory of defective warrants” by human rights groups.

Nasino and Moran are ordered to pay a total of P420,000 each for the two charges filed against them while Bautista is ordered to pay a total of P570,000 for the three separate cases he is facing.

The three activists were charged with illegal possession of firearms and of explosives, a standard charge by the government against activists.

Celebrated case

Nasino became known after she lost her three month old infant River Emmanuelle who she gave birth to while in detention. The original 36-hour furlough to attend to her daughter’s wake was also severely shortened to six hours.

Jail guards also ran away with the infant’s body during the funeral that earned widespread condemnation nationwide.

Nasino’s mother Marites Asis said she is happy that her daughter would soon be free.

“Masaya ako at muli kong mayayakap ang aking anak. Madadalaw na rin naming magkasama ang puntod ni Mikmik (River Emmanuelle) sa sementeryo,” Asis told Kodao.

(I am happy that I would be able to hug my daughter again and we can visit Mikmik’s grave together at the cemetery.)

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-National Capital Region (BAYAN-NCR) said the court’s decision to grant bail proves that Burgos-Villavert’s order was “a big lie.”

“This is a huge slap on the face of [former president Rodrigo] Duterte and his cohorts in their fascism. They merely wanted to silence their critics and activists who stood up against them through arrests and the filing of trumped-up charges,” the group said.

The group called for donations for the three’s bail totalling P1.410 million.

‘Excessive amount’

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), counsels of the three detainees, in a statement said that the “staggering amount” is tantamount to an “excessive bail” that impairs their capacity to post bail.

NUPL President Rey Cortez said that while they are not unmindful of the fact that the Court may have merely followed existing procedures in setting the amount, the detainees may have to spend more time in jail before they could raise the amount.

“The irony of it all is that, through machination, they were deprived of their liberty ‘as easy as pie’, and have to move heavens just to regain what is rightfully theirs,” Cortez said.

“Bring them home for Christmas,” the lawyer appealed. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Nasino’s lawyer hopes for her immediate release

Court of Appeals declares another Burgos-Villavert warrant defective

A lawyer of jailed activist Reina Mae Nasino hopes for her immediate release and two other fellow activists after the Court of Appeals (CA) voided the warrant used for their arrest.

In a decision dated August 31, the 12th Division of the CA said the search warrant used by the police to arrest Nasino and fellow activists Ram Carlo Bautista and Alma Moran in 2019 failed to meet standards of validity.

The Court added that the evidence presented by the Philippine National Police for obtaining the warrant were inadmissible.

Upon learning of the decision, one of Nasino’s lawyers said they are working on her, Bautista and Moran’s release at the soonest possible time.

“Hopefully, maparelease na sila agad. Mag-uusap kami on what to do with their pending case sa trial court,” Atty. Kathy Panguban of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers said.

(Hopefully, they will be released immediately. We will discuss what to do with their pending case before the trial court.)

The three were arrested in a midnight raid on November 5, 2019 by the Philippine National Police at Bagong Alyansang Makabayan’s Tondo, Manila office and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, a standard non-bailable charge against activists.

Nasino’s imprisonment became more controversial when she learned she was several weeks pregnant when arrested.

She eventually gave birth to her daughter River while in detention, despite pleas from her family and petitions by her lawyers for her release on humanitarian grounds.

Lacking maternal care, the infant died after three months. A Manila Court initially gave the grieving mother two days furlough to attend to her infant’s wake that was later reduced to just six hours.

At the infant’s funeral, jail personnel ran away with the cadaver, leaving family members and supporters behind.

The incident earned global condemnation against the “heartlessness” of the Rodrigo Duterte regime.

Irregular warrant

In its decision voiding the warrant, the CA pointed out that the police presented three different addresses in the documents it submitted while applying for the warrant.

The search was also conducted at a different address without the presence of barangay officials who have actual jurisdiction of the area.

“These apparent irregularities in the application and implementation of the subject search warrants are more than enough to debunk the presumption of regularity of performance of official duties,” the CA said.

The defective warrant was among the series of controversial ones issued by Quezon City Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Cecilyn Burgos-Villavert  that were eventually quashed by other judges.

Other defective warrants issued by Villavert included those used to arrest journalist Lady Ann Salemn and union organizer Rodrigo Esparago on International Human Rights Day (December 10) 2020, activists and unionists called the Negros 57 on Halloween (October 31) 2019, and National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace talks staff Alexander and Winona Birondo in July 2019.

Villavert had been dubbed by human rights groups as a “defective warrant factory” whose credibility in issuing such warrants is “questionable”.

“The Supreme Court must investigate and hold Judge Villavert accountable for her travesty of justice by using our courts for judicial harassment and political persecution, along with other similar judges who have been involved in the issuance of questionable search warrants and their lying accomplices in the police,” human rights group Karapatan said in August 2021. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kodao’s ‘River of Tears and Rage’ wins as Best Documentary Short Film

‘Heart-rending,’ Society of Filipino Film Reviewers says

Kodao Productions’ video documentary on the burial of infant River Emmanuel Nasino, three month old daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, won Best Short Documentary honors at the 2nd Pinoy Rebyu Awards by the Society of Filipino Film Reviewers (SFFR).

“For exposing who the real terrorizers are and their bottomless pit of injustice and indecency to deny the human rights of those they supposedly serve, the 2nd Pinoy Rebyu Awards for Best Documentary Short Film goes to RIVER OF TEARS AND RAGE,” the society’s announcement on Monday, February 28, said.

“Heart-rending,” SFFR further said of the film.

River of Tears and Rage was a film culled from Kodao Productions’ coverage of the infant’s wake and Facebook Live coverage of River Emmanuel’s burial on October 2020 when jail authorities ran away with the cadaver.

“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,” Kodao said during the film’s launch on October 2021, the first anniversary of the incident.

The film was an official selection in last year’s Cine Maralita Film Festival and was shown in special screenings in the United States and Canada.

The film was directed and edited by Maricon Montajes, herself a former political prisoner.


Starting out as Pinoy Rebyu in 2011 that aggregated reviews of local films and coming up with annual polls of the best Filipino films, the SFFR was created in 2021 to promote film education, preservation, criticism, and exhibition of Philippine cinema.

The other 2nd Pinoy Rebyu Awards winners are:

Best Film: Kun Maupay Man It Panahon

Best Director: Erik Matti (On the Job: The Missing 8)

Best Lead Performance: John Arcilla (On the Job: The Missing 8)

Best Supporting Performance: Jay Glorioso (Rabid)

Best Screenplay: Erik Matti and Michiko Yamamoto (On the Job: The Missing 8)

Best Ensemble Performance: On the Job: The Missing 8

Best Film Editing: Benjo Ferrer (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon)

Best Cinematography: Teck Shang Lim (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon)

Best Production Design: Whammy Alcazaren (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon)

Best Film Score: Andrew Florentino (Kun Maupay Man It Panahon)

Best Documentary Feature: Last Days at Sea

Best First Feature: Kun Maupay Man It Panahon

Best Live Action Short: Kids on Fire

Best Animated Short: Mga Ulap Tayong Naging Ulan


River of Tears and Rage Documentary Film

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 the most comprehensive multi-media 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. This film also aims to showcase how social media continue to redefine as content-sharing platforms but as generator of many things besides and beyond, including cinema and justice.

View production notes at


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

A Film by Maricon Montajes. A Kodao Production


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.

For two mothers, justice harder to reach amid pandemic

Two mothers share how it feels to be prisoners of misery. On top of the uncertainties brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, Marites Asis agonizes over how the justice system has treated her daughter and her late granddaughter, baby River, while Barbara Ruth Angeles has to endure the loss of a daughter to sickness while seeking justice for her son, who’s been in jail for months.

By Aie Balagtas See / Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

The wheels of justice are grinding exceedingly slow for Marites Asis and Barbara Ruth Angeles.

Marites is the mother of Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino, an urban poor leader who was arrested in Manila in November 2019. Ina learned she was pregnant weeks before her transfer to Manila City Jail and gave birth to baby River on July 1, only to be separated from her newborn after a month.

Marites became worried not only over Ina’s freedom and safety, but also over baby River’s health. River, who was dependent on formula milk and donations from the milk bank, was confined at the Philippine General Hospital after contracting pneumonia in September. Baby River’s death sparked public outrage as Ina was not allowed to visit the hospital and was given only six hours to say goodbye to her baby.

Painter Barbara Ruth Angeles has a similar story. It’s been months since she last saw her son Inno, who was arrested on what she said were trumped-up drug charges in Quezon City in 2018. To add to her misery, Inno’s older and only sister died of bladder problems in August.

Inno was not able to say goodbye.

Barbara Ruth has yet to properly mourn the sudden passing of her eldest child as she is busy earning a living while finding ways to free Inno. Barbara Ruth is also busy taking care of her 12-year-old granddaughter, who is now an orphan.

Marites and Barbara Ruth are free but mired in misery that could only be cured by the delivery of justice.

Here are their stories, in their own words.

Marites Asis, illustrated by Alexandra Paredes. (PCIJ)

Justice is heavy handed for Reina Mae Nasino and baby River

By Marites Asis (as told to Aie Balagtas See)

I found out that my daughter Ina was pregnant the same time Covid-19 struck. I felt the weight of heaven crash down on me.

I couldn’t give an interview without crying. At night, I even cry myself to sleep. You’d think I was crazy.

I learned about my daughter’s pregnancy in February, a few weeks before the police were set to transfer her to Manila City Jail.

That’s why when lockdowns were imposed, I was anxious. You need social distancing, but they’re cramped in a dormitory that houses 111 people.

It seemed risky for my daughter to be pregnant and at the same time detained in jail, where she could catch the virus.

I was asleep when Ina was arrested [on Nov. 5, 2019]. Someone went to my house at about 5 a.m. and told me about Ina’s arrest. The person said she was taken to the CIDG (Criminal Investigation and Detection Group) office in Manila Police District (MPD). In short, I rushed to MPD around 5 a.m.

I was hysterical.

I went to Ate Vicky, my older sister, the woman who raised all of us, including Ina. We consider her our mother.

Ate Vicky said we should go to MPD. At MPD headquarters, however, they did not allow us to see Ina immediately.

Investigators were asking them if they really owned those guns.

I was furious.

The police planted evidence against Ina. I know my daughter. They planted guns and grenades. During the arrest, the cops covered their faces with pillows. Who in his right mind would do that to our youth?

It hurts so much to see your child in jail.

You couldn’t even go out because of coronavirus. You’re stuck at home. Anxious and worried.

Before coronavirus hit, I would visit her in jail every day. I never missed a visit until visitation rights were cancelled last March.

With the lockdown in place, I felt helpless.

I always wonder how my daughter is doing. Is she eating well? Can she take a shower in private or do they take showers in groups?

I pity my daughter.

Because of the virus, we could not see each other, especially when she was still pregnant. Covid-19 exacerbated my pain.

She said maybe I could see her again in October.

It’s difficult. It’s really, really difficult. I couldn’t sleep at night. I would always think of her. She would talk to us through video calls, and we were happy to see her tummy grow.

But I felt so guilty. I couldn’t take care of my own daughter.

Ina was supposed to give birth on July 10 but she gave birth nine days early, on July 1.

I didn’t even see her at the hospital.

I was asleep. A jail personnel called me at midnight. She instructed me to go to Fabella Hospital as Ina was about to give birth.

I rushed to Ate Vicky once again. Together we went to Fabella, hoping we could be by my daughter’s side on that important day.

When we got there, the hospital administration said visitors were not allowed because of their Covid-19 protocols.

Anyway, the hospital said Ina had given birth.

Ate Vicky and I went back to Fabella on July 3 to bring diapers and water for the baby.

The security guards said my daughter was still there. They didn’t allow us to see her, so we asked if they could hand the package over to Ina.

On our way home, about noontime, Ate Vicky’s phone rang. It was Ina. She said the baby was crying because she could not produce milk. The baby was hungry.

It baffled us because we thought she was still in the hospital. Ina said they returned to jail on July 2.

No one told us. We just found out. That gave us another bout of sharp pain.

The security guards played us for fools!

We attended to Ina first. When we reached the city jail, we were told the baby was already given formula milk.

Then we stormed Fabella Hospital to confront the guards. We demanded that they return the diapers and water. Those belong to us.

They didn’t even want to return the water and diapers, so I complained at the hospital’s information center.

I last saw Ina when she handed the baby to us on [Aug. 13].

We barely met her. We were not supposed to see Ina. I just asked the warden if I could have a glimpse of my daughter.

How do I feel? I’m filled with pain. I can witness the suffering of my child.

I felt that Ina and my granddaughter did not want to be separated from each other.

How I feel about Ina is the same with how she feels about my granddaughter.

I don’t know why they treated her that way. As a mother, I felt hurt. I don’t know how to explain it. She is not convicted yet.

It was painful to watch them [policemen and jail guards] surround my daughter. It’s okay if they made her wear PPE (personal protective equipment) because she needed to go back to jail. But to handcuff her? As if it’s not a wake.

I have yet to move on.

I skip social media posts that remind me of what happened because they bring back memories of when she was handcuffed at the wake. She was looking at her child. She was not able to come close to her infant’s coffin.

Then there’s the memory of men with high-powered guns barging in to inspect the room and the toilet because they were afraid of getting outfoxed.

You see? They did not give us the chance to bond.

That day, I ran out of tears to cry. All I could do was call them out.

I didn’t have any tears left to cry after seeing my daughter’s situation.

It was difficult to cry because I was enraged. I asked them to leave the room because we didn’t need guns there.

They didn’t have to guard the burial. There were so many of them that they outnumbered the mourners.

I tried to appeal to their hearts. I told them we knew it was an order and we couldn’t do anything. Just the same I hoped they realized it was a burial and a mother would be separated from her child.

I only wish they had thought of that.

During our last conversation at the cemetery, Ina told me: “Ma, it’s okay to put the baby inside the niche.”

Ina held my hand twice: during the wake and during the burial.

She told me: “Ma, give me your hand.” She held it tight.

She was trying to tell me that I needed to be strong. I told her: “Be strong, we will fight back.”


I’m okay. But it’s not easy to forget because the trauma is still there. I can go to work now.

Ina said it’s not yet the end of everything.

I filed a legal complaint over what they did during the baby’s wake and burial. How will I attain justice if I don’t complain? This should serve them a lesson because they must not treat other people the way they treated us.

Baby River died of pneumonia on Oct. 9. The court gave Reina Mae a couple of three-hour furloughs to bid her child goodbye. The first was to visit the wake, the second was to bury her child.

Not even an inch of her skin was able to touch River’s coffin. She was made to wear a full hazmat suit during the visits because of the threat of Covid-19. She was in handcuffs most of the time and was surrounded by heavily armed government forces.

Their family was never given a chance to grieve.

Barbara Ruth Angeles, illustrated by Alexandra Paredes.

Legal shortcuts in the drug war:From ‘palit-ulo’ to ‘amin-laya’

By Barbara Ruth Angeles (as told to Aie Balagtas See)

My son Inno will enter into a plea-bargain agreement. I don’t have any choice left. I have to take him out of jail.

My son does not want it, but I have no choice. How else are we going to set him free? That was why we opted for “amin-laya” (plea bargain).

The advice came from lawyers and BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) personnel. They said it’s his first offense anyway.

I’m worried for my son, of course, as entering into a plea bargain means having a permanent criminal record. It’s similar to being convicted already, although he is innocent.

But my son’s case has been pending in court for two years. Within that period we only had about four hearings even if the court had released a monthly schedule.

Reset. Reset. Reset.

Since my son couldn’t prove his innocence in court, I told him that once he’s free, it’s up to him to prove to himself that he’s not what the government had accused him of.

Besides, the cops offered this solution to us before, and they promised us they wouldn’t oppose it.

I can take better care of my son if he’s with me. I can tell him, “Don’t go out, don’t go with these people.”

I just want this problem to end. We’re all suffering because of it.

Then, there’s the pandemic. The BJMP does not tell us the exact number of inmates infected with Covid-19. It’s difficult because it’s congested there.

Actually, I had to take risks and buy my son a P15,000 kubol (hut) so he could have his own space, and that’s just plywood about a quarter of a meter in size.

It is very expensive inside city jails. You’re aware of this: If you are poor, you will starve to death inside our jails.

Since visitation rights are suspended, my son and I communicate with each other through phone calls. Imagine this: to get in touch with me, he needs to buy call cards worth P100 for P300. The BJMP asks you to buy the call cards from them.

I won’t tell you the exact amount that I spend on my son but his budget for a week is my budget for two weeks.

I don’t know what else could happen. That’s why I said, “Son, just plead guilty.”

My son was arrested on May 3 (2018). Arrests of drug suspects spiked during that period because of the drug war “quota”. I learned about that so-called quota from the BJMP personnel. They blamed it for their population boom.

Go back to the day Galas police station was raided over an extortion case. That’s how we learned Inno was there.

At first, we had no idea that Inno had been arrested. We looked for him in barangay halls and police stations. We reported him as missing because we couldn’t reach his phone.

I kept crying.

My daughter and I searched everywhere. I thought he was killed because deaths related to bike theft were rampant those days, so we scoured hospitals and funeral parlors.

I posted about our search for Inno on Facebook. One of my school batchmates advised me to report it to 8888. I reported it to the Duterte hotline 8888 but it was not able to help us.

On May 4, Galas Police Station was raided over an extortion case involving its anti-narcotics team.

A police investigator called me and said: “Go to Galas Police Station immediately. Your son is here. Bring food and clothes.”

I was shocked. How did he end up there?

No one entertained me at the police station until I lost my cool.

Someone from GMA News told me to get a good lawyer.

At that time, hiring a private lawyer cost P300,000. Our case got delayed because we couldn’t find one. Some were too old. His grandmother found someone but I think he’s from Aklan.

We couldn’t grasp what was happening. We were desperate to find a lawyer. It was mental torture. We weren’t used to this. It was the first time someone in the family got involved in a court case.

The most enraging part was my son didn’t violate any law.

You know, initially, the police didn’t even have a record of his arrest.

I talked to detainees and some policemen at Galas. I learned that the SAID (Station Anti-Illegal Drugs Division) cops were supposed to kill Inno as a replacement for big fish that they’re extorting money from.

The policemen in Galas said my son was intended for “palit-ulo.” (Palit-ulo, which literally means head-swapping, is a scheme in which a drug suspect gets freedom in exchange for ratting out on his or her suppliers.)

They said it was for a “zero-zero.” You know zero-zero?

That meant they would kill him.

The policemen tortured my son.

I have evidence, including the medico-legal report, and X-ray and CT scan results.

At the hospital, the doctor said he had fractured ribs. They also saw a “metallic forensic” in his left leg.

The doctor did not want him to leave, but Galas police did not allow him to be operated on. Despite his fractures and injuries, Galas turned him over to the city jail.

We lost the chance to have him treated. His wounds eventually healed in jail.

You asked how I’m doing?

It’s the first time someone asked me that question.

Well, I’m not… I’m not okay. I try to do my normal routine but emotionally, no, I’m not okay. My daughter died in August while my son is in jail. She’s my eldest and the only one I could rely on to deal with this problem.

We were able to get hold of the CCTV [showing Inno’s illegal arrest] because of her.

I still couldn’t accept that my daughter had passed away.

Inno was not able to say goodbye. They had not seen each other for two years.

She was sick but was not confined. Her resistance was down and I was afraid that she might catch the virus in the hospital.

My daughter left behind three children. The eldest child, an 11-year-old girl, does not have a father. I’m taking care of her.

My granddaughter is already worried that her life will fall apart if something happens to me. I told her, nothing’s going to happen to me because I still have a purpose in life.

I have faith in the Lord.

I never questioned God for everything that I’m going through. I know he will not give me these trials if I cannot overcome them.

I’m trying to be strong for my son and for my granddaughter. If I falter, who would be strong for them?

But it’s difficult.


I think my daughter is guiding me. I feel better now. I started painting again 40 days after her death.

I used to paint with dark colors, colors that you can associate with death. This time, I’m using positive and vibrant colors. My artwork seems alive.

Do I have peace of mind?

No. I can only have peace of mind when my son is finally with me. –PCIJ, December 2020

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Aie Balagtas See is a freelance journalist working on human rights issues. Follow her on Twitter (@AieBalagtasSee) or email her at [email protected] for comments.

Inspired by The Marshall Project’s Life Inside, Marites’ and Barbara’s stories are part of PCIJ’s series on the criminal justice system, which includes first-person accounts from ​current and former detainees and their family members​.

Kodao publishes PCIJ reports as part of a content-sharing agreement.

“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