It’s natural for newborn babies and mothers to be nearly inseparable, their bond strengthened each time the mother warmly embraces and nurtures the child herself. But Baby River was deprived of that.
Born underweight during a pandemic and separated from her political detainee mother since, Baby River couldn’t wait for agonizingly slow justice anymore and died on Friday, Oct. 9. She was only three months old.
“The baby is gone. No words could ever capture this human tragedy. Heartbreaking does not even come close to it. What kind of justice system, nay, society, do we have to let this inhumanity and injustice to mother and child happen,” said Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), representing Reina Mae Nasino, Baby River’s mother.
Reina has been detained at the Manila City Jail since 2019, arrested on non-bailable charges of possession of illegal firearms and explosives, the usual charges filed when police were cracking down on activists last year. She gave birth to River in July this year, only to be separated from the baby in August as ordered by the Manila court.
With River under a relative’s care, Reina has since asked the court several times to let her raise her child. They denied her appeal to let River stay with her in the jail’s female dorm and even junked her appeal for temporary release, allowing her at least a month to breastfeed her child. Even when her baby was admitted in the hospital for diarrhea and was in critical condition, Reina was still denied to see River.
In case you’re wondering if Baby River’s passing is a big deal, it is and it should be: It’s proof that our justice system is flawed. It has deprived individuals (a baby and her mother, no less) basic rights while letting others run free, acquitted and even pardoned of their crimes. We can ponder the question posed by the NUPL: What kind of justice system allows this “injustice” to happen?
It’s heartbreaking that lives must be lost for people to realize how urgent this is, but the message is still there: It’s difficult to believe in the law, the adages like “dura lex sed lex,” when injustices such as this are committed before our very eyes.
Let this also sink in: As you’re reading this, as Baby River lies in a casket, Reina is still detained, fighting for the right to see her deceased child.
Art by Yel Sayo