Group renews call for the release of COVID-19 vulnerable prisoners

KAPATID, the support group for families and friends of political prisoners, on Wednesday renewed its call for the immediate action by the Supreme Court on its petition for the release of coronavirus vulnerable prisoners like Reina Mae Asis Nasino who just gave birth today.

The 23-year-old political prisoner delivered her first child, a girl, at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila on Wednesday, July 1.

Her mother, Marites Asis, who earlier went to the SC to personally ask for the temporary release of her daughter, is yet to see Reina Mae because of existing health protocols.

“We lament that the Supreme Court is taking a long time to make a decision on the ‘urgent petition’ filed last April in which Reina Mae is one of the petitioners. We regret that the High Tribunal did not take action with exigency. If only they were able to decide earlier and did not let almost three months pass, Reina Mae could have given birth without fearing for her life and her child,” said Fides Lim, the group’s spokesperson.

With the birth of Reina Mae’s child, KAPATID asks the government to grant her temporary release on bail or to allow her to stay longer at the hospital pending a court motion to give Reina Mae the necessary time to breastfeed her baby, which provides unsurpassed natural immunity and nutrition from breast milk that contains protective antibodies much needed especially at this time of the pandemic.

“We hope that the government will take our appeal seriously as we want to avoid what happened to Andrea Rosal, a political detainee whose newborn died because of complications. This is why we want Reina Mae to be granted release or to be allowed to stay with her child for a longer time. It is most cruel to separate a baby from her mother particularly during this health crisis,” she said.

According to Atty. Maria Sol Taule, one of Reina Mae’s lawyers, they are filing a motion for her to be with her newborn child “on humanitarian grounds.” She said this is a separate action from an earlier motion filed by human rights lawyers to quash search warrants and suppress evidence.

“First and foremost, the arrest of Reina Mae is illegal and the search warrants used to justify her arrest are marred with irregularities,” noted Taule, referring to the case of illegal possession of firearms and explosives manufactured against Nasino and two other young activists following a crackdown on people’s organizations in Manila and Bacolod in November 2019.

“The evidence against Reina Mae and her co-accused are obviously planted. Hence, there is no reason for her to be continuously detained in the overcrowded Manila City Jail, where she is most vulnerable to contracting COVID-19,” Taule said.

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