Cayetano or Velasco –it’s same banana!

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STATISTICS tell us that some 22 infants out of every 1,000 born in this country die before they are one year old.

River Nasino who died Friday evening at age three months was one of them. But the circumstances of her birth, and death, refuse to have her simply added to the statistics without contributing to the social significance of her brief existence.

She was in the womb of her 23-year-old mother, Reina Mae Nasino, when she was thrown into the Manila city jail on charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the non-bailable crime usually slapped on detained activists.

River was born on July 1 underweight at 5.4 lbs. When first taken to the Philippine General Hospital on Sept. 24, she was suffering from diarrhea, and later diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

The doctors said her lungs had bacterial infection and were deteriorating fast. Reina Mae’s lawyers filed an urgent request for her to see the child, quoting doctors that she was “no longer responding to medications and may expire any moment.”

Appeals in social media failed to move Executive Judge Virgilio Macaraig of the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37. The original handling judge had inhibited from the case, hence the appeal to Macaraig.

The mother’s lawyers asked the court to either let her and the baby remain at the Fabella Memorial Hospital or allow them to stay together in jail but be provided with natal care facilities. She also asked to be allowed to express breastmilk and given access to clean lactation facilities in the city jail dormitory for women.

Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali of the Manila RTC Branch 20 who initially handled the case had ordered the baby turned over to her relatives. On Aug. 23, 2020, River was given to the custody of her maternal grandmother Marites Asis.

Reina Mae was among some 60 activists rounded up in a massive crackdown on Leftists in 2019. They were arrested while a search warrant issued by Quezon City Judge Cecilyn Burgos Villavert was being carried out. It was after her arrest that Reina Mae found out she was pregnant.

Seen against the ease with which certain wealthy or influential detainees, or even convicts, are able to step outside whenever they want, this story of a single mother begging to be with her dying infant tugs at the heart.

There are, of course, those who see the need for firmness in the enforcement of the law, however hard (dura lex) it is, as necessary to serve the ends of justice and peace in the community.

We think that in a situation such as that of Reina Mae, the law and the rules should be tempered with Christian compassion. We trust that jail authorities will be able to manage the visit of a detained mother to her dying infant.

Mothers, including one who has run afoul of the law out of necessity or conviction, will act properly and not spoil the chance to kiss and hug her sick child. Love and kindness cannot but add to the delicacy of the poignant moment.

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