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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.”

Postscript:

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.

Postscript:

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

= = = = =

Aie Balagtas See is a freelance journalist working on human rights issues. Follow her on Twitter (@AieBalagtasSee) or email her at aie.bsee@gmail.com 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

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.

‘Mabigat sa dibdib ko’

“Mabigat sa dibdib ko, nakita ko kasi ang anak ko. Kaya nananawagan po ako sa Supreme Court. Ibaba niyo po ang desisyon para makasama na niya ang anak niya.”Marites Asis, Ina ng bilanggong pulitikal na si Reina Mae Nasino

Mother of political detainee appeals to have daughter and infant reunited

By Joseph Cuevas

Maritess Asis, mother of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, renewed her appeal to the Supreme Court to release her daughter who just gave birth last month.

This after jail authorities ordered Nasino’s one-month old baby girl be separated from her following the Manila Court’s junked her petition to be allowed to take care of the infant at least a year even inside the prison.

At around 12:30 pm Thursday, August 13, Manila City Jail Female Dorm personnel handed over the infant to her grandmother.

The baby, wrapped in a blanket, was wailing when separated from her mother, Asis said.  

“Mabigat sa dibdib ko, nakita ko kasi ang anak ko. Kaya nananawagan po ako sa Supreme Court. Ibaba niyo po ang desisyon para makasama na niya ang anak niya,” she said. (It is heartbreaking to see my daughter this way. That is why I am appealing to the Supreme Court to hand out its decision so that my daughter would be with her infant.)

Maritess Asis, mother of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, with her granddaughter.

Asis said that she herself was only able to see her daughter from a distance during the turnover.  

“Ang sakit-sakit po na magkahiwalay sila. Nararamdaman ko po ang nararamdaman ng anak ko,” she said. (It is painful that they are separated. I feel what my daughter feels.)

The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) lamented the government’s decision to separate Nasino from her infant, describing the move as ruthless and callous.

In a statement, NUPL said that amid the pandemic, authorities are pushing for the “heartless and inhuman act” of separating a baby from her only source of nutrition and protection at a vulnerable stage of her life.

The lawyer’s group also expressed dismay at the Manila Court’s ruling that lactation facilities that will enable mothers like Nasino to express milk should be referred to the local government or the appropriate government agency, “implying that these are no concern of the jail.”

The irony is the government is celebrating Breastfeeding Awareness Month this August under Section 12 of RA 11028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009. Under this law, all government agencies have the duty to uphold children’s right to their mothers’ breastmilk,” the NUPL said.

“Likewise, under RA 11148, or the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act of 2018, Ina (Nasino) and her baby should not to be separated for early breastfeeding initiation and exclusive breastfeeding, which is part of the strengthened integrated strategy for maternal, neonatal, child health and nutrition in the first one thousand (1,000) days of life,” the group added.

Nasino gave birth last July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and was forcibly returned to prison with her baby a day after.

She was arrested November last year along with two other activists in what her fellow activists describe as part of an ongoing government against progressive groups.

Meanwhile, political prisoners support group Kapatid reminded Supreme Court magistrates about its long-pending petition to release select prisoners due to COVID 19.

The group said it filed its petition last April 8 requesting that pregnant women and lactating mothers, the elderly and sickly, and those who have served their sentences be freed to help decongest prisons and prevent outbreaks in the country’s overcrowded prisons. #