Calls to free Reina Mae Nasino, justice for Baby River dominate Twitter trends after funeral tension

October 16, 2020 - 6:13 PM
Detained Filipino activist Reina Mae Nasino holds a flower during the burial of her three-month-old baby River, who died while she was in jail, in Manila North Cemetery, Philippines, October 16, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Calls for justice for the death of Baby River filled Twitter conversations after the Philippine National Police took her remains during her funeral.

Baby River, daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, passed away last Friday in the special care unit of a Manila hospital after suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Nasino was only permitted to visit her daughter once last Wednesday, October 14.

Before her daughter’s death, Nasino’s lawyers filed a Very Urgent Motion for Furlough before the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37. This would’ve allowed her to be with her three-month-old baby during her last days.

READ: Furlough ruling juxtaposed: The case of Baby River activist mom vs Bong Revilla and father

River was born on July 1 and was separated from her mother last August.

Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali, however, junked their motion, citing the letter from the Manila City Jail Dormitory that claimed no facility to be used for newborn babies. River passed away hours later.

What happened during funeral procession

Kapatid, an advocacy group for political detainees, reported that the funeral procession for River was suddenly cut short after police sped up the car carrying River’s remains.

Mourners planned to pass in front of the Supreme Court before heading to Manila North Cemetery.

Prior to this, Marites Asis, Nasino’s mother, was also caught in a video begging on her knees for the police to allow them to start the procession at 11:30 a.m., ahead of the scheduled 1 p.m. when Nasino’s three-hour furlough would start.

The police eventually relented and allowed the family to bring the coffin to the viewing room of the La Funeraria Rey.

Philip Jamilla, public information researcher for rights group Karapatan, recounted the incident on Twitter.

“Katabi ko lang si Nanay Marites, lola ni Baby River, humahagulhol siya kasi humarurot ‘yung karo at tinangay si Baby River. Iniwan nila ‘yung pamilya ng patay. Mas masahol pa kayo sa hayop,” Jamilla said.

How online users reacted

Videos of Asis’ kneeling before the police and the police escorts speeding up the funeral march eventually circulated on Twitter, which prompted calls to bring justice to River.

The hashtags #JusticeForBabyRiver, #FreeReinaMaeNasino and #OustDuterteNOW dominated the Philippine Trends on the micro-blogging platform with more than 60,000 tweets each under their belts.

Phrases “mga walang puso” and “ang sasahol niyo” also trended as Filipinos expressed their outrage against the police’s perceived disrespect to the death of the child.

Some Filipinos juxtaposed such treatment to the burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.

Lawyer Edre Olalia, secretary-general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, likewise compared the furlough granted to Nasino to government officials involved indicted of serious crimes.

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Author Alfonso Manalastas also previously noted the terms “humanitarian” and “compassion” were only expressed in cases involving high-ranking government officials.

A form of harassment

Progressive organizations such as Anakbayan and Gabriela condemned the police police’s actions as “heartless” and described them as a form of harassment against the Nasino family.

“Today we etch in our memory the image of a mother grieving in handcuffs, chained, and surrounded by her child’s murderers. This regime deserves no mercy from the wrath of the Filipino people,” said Vinz Simon, Anakbayan national secretary-general.

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Posted by Anakbayan on Thursday, October 15, 2020


Gabriela Rep. Arlene Broasas, meanwhile, likened the apparent “snatching” of Baby River’s remains to that of the late Anakpawis Chairperson Randall Eschanis last August.

READ: #NotSafeAtHome? Calls for justice for slain peasant leader Randy Echanis

“There is no justifying this injustice and brutality perpetrated by the state against a mother and her dead 3-month-old child. We need to hold the state accountable to this culture of impunity which has plagued our society. Release Reina Nasino! Justice for baby River!” Brosas said.