“There is something wrong because her 23-year old mother was detained not because she did something wrong, but because she was wrongfully accused.” — Bishop Broderick Pabillo
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Police tried to halt the commemoration of River Emmanuelle’s 40th day of death by snatching the tarpaulin bearing the baby’s picture, and threatening to arrest family members and symphatizers.
Family and supporters of River, daughter of political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, just attended a mass celebrated by Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Archdiocese of Manila at the Archdiocesan Shrine of Sto. Niño de Tondo when elements of the Manila police attempted to disperse them while holding a program at the Amado V. Hernandez Plaza in Tondo, Manila.
They were able to proceed with the candle lighting ceremony after the police had left the area.
In an interview with the media, Pabillo said that the supporters only want to remember baby River. “They will not cause trouble,” he said in Filipino.
In his homily, Pabillo said that River’s death showed that there is something wrong in the system.
“There is something wrong because her 23-year old mother was detained not because she did something wrong, but because she was wrongfully accused,” he said.
Nasino was arrested in November last year together with two other activists during a police raid of Bayan-Metro Manila office. They were slapped with trumped-up charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
About 25 bishops, priests and clergy across the country offered prayers and mass intentions in remembrance of River who succumbed to acute respiratory disease on Oct. 9. She was only three months old.
Among those who offered mass were Rev. Fr. Noel Gatchalian, SVD and Rev. Fr. Ernie Pesimo of the Sto. Niño de Puncan Parish in Nueva Ecija.
Bishop Rhee Timbang, Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente dedicated an evening song (night prayers) for River.
Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, reiterated their call for the release of Nasino. She said that releasing her would be an act of justice by the Supreme Court even if it is only temporary basis.
“What is important is that Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta follow through his actions with the lower courts in facilitating motions involving Reina Mae to correct the injustice done to her and the High Court’s neglect of duty to her and baby River,” said Lim in a statement.
Nasino was included in the petition to release 22 political prisoners vulnerable to COVID-19 based on humanitarian grounds. It was filed in April when Nasino was only six months pregnant. The SC, however, released its decision after five months, directing the lower courts to deal with the cases.
Nasino gave birth to an underweight River in July. After a month, the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered the separation of mother and child. River got sick eventually due to her frail health and deprivation of breastmilk.
Lim lamented that had the SC acted fast enough, River’s death could have been prevented.
“Human life is fragile. The vulnerable, precarious condition of prisoners like Reina Mae was precisely the reason why Kapatid initiated that petition amid COVID-19 pandemic,” Lim said.
She added that they are hoping that the SC takes the lesson of River to heart as they will “continue to knock on its doors to press the humanitarian release of all elderly and medically vulnerable prisoners as COVID-19 is expected to extract a heavier toll amid the devastating effects of typhoons and flooding in our country.”