Manila Bulletin

Ba­bies have rights

- ATTY. GRE­GO­RIO LARRAZABAL

Quoted be­low is the state­ment of the In­te­grated Bar of the Philip­pines: “The tragic death of 3-month-old Baby River high­lights the need to do MORE, BET­TER, FASTER in the jus­tice sec­tor.

“Baby River was born at the Fa­bella Med­i­cal Cen­ter on July 1, 2020. Her mother, ur­ban poor or­ga­nizer Reina Mae Nasino, 23 years old, is a de­tainee at the Manila City Jail Fe­male Dor­mi­tory who was ar­rested on Novem­ber 5, 2019 at the Tondo of­fice of Bagong Alyansang Mak­abayan. The po­lice raids that re­sulted in the ar­rests of over 60 ac­tivists in Metro Manila and Ba­colod were by virtue of var­i­ous war­rants is­sued by the RTC Branch 89 in Que­zon City. Reina Mae and two oth­ers were charged with il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms and ex­plo­sives, a non-bail­able of­fense.

“De­spite ques­tions raised against the va­lid­ity of the raids and ar­rests as well as pe­ti­tions for the re­lease of Reina Mae on health and hu­man­i­tar­ian grounds or for con­tin­ued breast­feed­ing, the frail and un­der­weight Baby River was sep­a­rated from her mother barely a month af­ter birth.

“The case went through RTC Manila Branch 20, the Supreme Court, back to RTC Branch 20, then RTC branch 42 and RTC Branch 37, and the Court of Appeals, un­til Baby River died on Oct. 12, 2020.

“Manila RTC Branch 47 fi­nally al­lowed Reina Mae fur­lough – this time to visit her dead daugh­ter. De­spite many fully armed BJMP es­corts, po­lice and mil­i­tary per­son­nel mon­i­tor­ing and ac­com­pa­ny­ing Reina Mae, she re­mained hand-cuffed while at the wake.

“The heart­break­ing and brief lifestory of Baby River com­pel us to raise these ques­tions:

“1. Why can’t our jus­tice sys­tem safe­guard the needs and rights of an in­no­cent child to breast­feed­ing and a bet­ter chance to sur­vive?

“2. Why don’t our jails have ad­e­quate fa­cil­i­ties to ad­dress the needs and rights of chil­dren and women de­tainees duly rec­og­nized by do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional law?

“3. Why does it take so long to re­spect, pro­tect, and ful­fill hu­man rights?

“4. Isn’t there dou­ble stan­dard when “big­ger” de­tainees are al­lowed sim­i­lar or even greater priv­i­leges?

“5. Can we not have jus­tice with com­pas­sion?

“Let our con­cern, dis­may, or rage and the tears that we may shed for Baby River Nasino fuel our col­lec­tive de­ter­mi­na­tion and ac­tion to im­prove our jus­tice sys­tem. Let not our in­no­cent chil­dren fall un­der the cracks. Ba­bies have rights and we have du­ties to nur­ture them. Let our hu­man­ity rise above our per­sonal com­forts or the priv­i­leges of power.” DOMINGO EGON CAYOSA Na­tional Pres­i­dent & Chair­man of the Board of Gov­er­nors

***

We can talk about the law le­gal pro­cesses, and I’m sure many will. But at the crux of all this should be: “What is it to be hu­man?” Have we sunk so low that we’ve lost our hu­man­ity? Have we for­got­ten what it is that sep­a­rates us from an­i­mals? Have we been numb to peo­ples’ suf­fer­ing and death?

Have we been stripped of our sense of moral­ity and com­pas­sion that we have lost our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what is right and wrong? Peo­ple have dis­cussed the tram­pled rights of the mother of the in­fant. But what about the rights of the baby? Strip­ping the legalese of the tragedy, we have to ask: What about the ba­sic needs of the baby, as em­pha­sized by the state­ment of the IBP? There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to be­ing de­prived of the love and care his mother, and the warmth of her em­brace. The sooth­ing voice to say she’s go­ing to get bet­ter, and she’s loved… Have we re­gressed to a point that we’ve been stripped of our em­pa­thy?

More than the le­gal­ity of this. Af­ter the furor will have died down, and it surely will, I think we have to ask our­selves, “Where are we now?” How low have we sunk and how to we get back up and re­gain some sense of de­cency?

My heart broke when I saw pic­tures of Reina Mae Nasino cov­ered in PPE, in hand­cuffs, un­able to even hug her dead baby one last time. I still can­not un­der­stand the in­hu­man­ity to­wards not only the mother, but the baby, who had done no one wrong, yet was treated with so much hate, dis­re­spect, con­tempt, and de­ri­sion for her to be born in this world, yet stripped and de­prived of hu­man love and af­fec­tion. I can never hate any­one that much to treat him or her so badly.

I think we need to dig deep within our­selves and search our soul. To find the hu­man­ity which has clearly been miss­ing. We need to find our moral com­pass, be­fore we all lose our soul and drown in the abyss.

Stay Safe. Pray for Baby River. Pray for OUR coun­try.

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