Senator Nancy Binay on July 5 called for “greater compassion from jail authorities and prosecutors to allow a political detainee who just gave birth to be temporarily released from detention and be allowed to seek sanctuary in a COVID-free facility.”
Reina Mae “Ina” Asis Nasino, 23, a political detainee since November 2019, gave birth to her first child on July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila.
In less than 48 hours, she and her baby were brought back to the Manila City Jail (MCJ) Female Dormitory without her lawyers or relatives being informed prior or during the transfer. They only found out a day after that Nasino and her baby was sent back to jail.
Binay said the detention cells are poorly-ventilated, overcrowded and cramped, and Nasino and her baby are prone to be infected with the disease inside the jail.
“There are alternative ways of isolation or confinement outside of prison for those nursing their newborn child. Kaya po [That is why] I am appealing for greater compassion from the BJMP and the courts–for the best interest of both mother and the baby–to move them to a safer government-run facility or even a home for single mothers run by NGOs or a faith-based institution where their healthcare needs are taken care of,” Binay said.
COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the MCJ—one of three most populous jails in the country with 4,916 inmates in 2019. The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) recorded a 394% congestion rate in 2019.
The group of political prisoners’ kin KAPATID expressed their gratitude to Binay for echoing calls to transfer Nasino to a COVID-19 free facility.
“Time is of the essence. Because every day that both breastfeeding mother and baby spend in jail spells danger. We hope and pray that the courts, particularly the highest court of the land, will act now on our appeal,” said KAPATID Spokesperson Fides Lim.
A petition filed by 22 political prisoners on April 8 seeking the humanitarian release of elderly and sick prisoners has yet to be decided by the Supreme Court, despite KAPATID getting word from Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta that it can be decided on June 16.
Counsels from National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL) Women and Children Committee (WCC), meanwhile, appeal for appropriate post-natal and medical care for Nasino and her baby girl.
“While they are isolated from the other inmates, still the detention’s lack of health care services, facilities and programs appropriate for a nursing mother and her infant cannot calm us down,” Nasino’s lawyers said in a statement on July 6.
They filed an urgent motion for post-natal check-up at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 this morning.
The group disclosed that the baby had some yellow skin discoloration at birth and Nasino also mentioned the baby’s low birth weight in a call with her lawyers.
“The baby’s low birth weight is a tell-tale sign of the difficulties Ina and her infant were forced to go through during those nine months of pregnancy. This is a cause for serious concern,” said NUPL WCC.
The group lamented that Nasino and her baby were already deprived of the prenatal care that they deserve.
On the day Nasino gave birth, they appealed for the recognition of her right to be with her baby to ensure that she is breastfed and well taken care of, as well as their rooming-in rights. These rights are spelled out under the Expanded Breastfeeding Act of 2009 and in various international human rights laws and instruments.
In the law, rooming-in is a national policy that the state will “encourage, protect and support the practice of breastfeeding. It shall create an environment where basic physical, emotional, and psychological needs of mothers and infants are fulfilled through the practice of rooming-in and breastfeeding.”
Also in the said law, rooming-in is defined as “the practice of placing the newborn in the same room as the mother right after delivery up to discharge to facilitate mother-infant bonding and to initiate breastfeeding. The infant may either share the mother’s bed or be placed in a crib beside the mother.”
The lawyers also pleaded that appropriate facilities and services for nursing mothers in accordance with the minimum standards set forth under international law, particularly the Bangkok Rules, be accorded and observed in the event Nasino and her baby will be discharged from the hospital.
The section on “Pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and mothers with children in prison” under the said Rules stated that “Women prisoners shall not be discouraged from breastfeeding their children, unless there are specific health reasons to do so.”
NUPL WCC asserted that the rules then require penal institutions to ensure that the minimum standards both in terms of facilities and services for the attainment of this humane cause are satisfactorily met.