Baby River Nasino laid to rest, but road to burial filled with tension

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 16) — Baby River Emmanuel Nasino, the three-month old daughter of detained activist Reina Mae Nasino, was laid to rest on Friday. Until the final minutes of the mother and child's somber reunion, it remained gripped with tension.

Ahead of Baby River's burial, police prohibited supporters outside the funeral home from displaying placards calling for justice for the death of the infant forced to be separated from her mother when she was only a month old. During the funeral march, advocacy group Kapatid said police "hijacked" the procession. Supporters and loved ones appealed to the the driver carrying the remains to slow down because the family members behind the vehicle were trying to chase after them. But the pleas fell on deaf ears as the hearse even picked up its speed.

When they arrived at Baby River's final resting place in Manila North Cemetery, they were greeted by a handful of police personnel — all wearing helmets and equipped with wooden sticks.

Nasino arrived in the afternoon for her last three hours with her firstborn. Decked in full personal protective gear and hands bound by handcuffs, the 23-year-old activist was surrounded by dozens of jail officers and police personnel when all she wanted was to grieve in peace.

Her family appealed to the authorities to show a little compassion by removing hen handcuffs if only to hold her child — even through the coffin. Her security escorts refused, forcing Nasino to exert all the effort her body can muster to touch the small casket while bound by the handcuffs.

The young mother lamented how she has not seen her daughter laugh. Despite the challenges, the weeping Nasino remained full of hope that they will come out stronger.

"Pinagkaitan tayo na magkasama. Hindi ko nakita ang halakhak mo. Lalaya akong mas matatag. Hindi tayo dito nag-iisa. Panandalian ang pagdadalamhati natin. Babangon tayo," she said.

[Translation: We were deprived of our time together. I have not seen your laughter. I will come out stronger. We are not alone, the grief will not remain forever. We will rise again.]

When her three hours was up, Nasino was brought back to her detention facility at the Manila City Jail.

This scenario during Baby River's interment did not come as a surprise after the tension-filled wake on Wednesday. Commotion ensued when dozens of jail escorts tried to prevent the activist from entertaining questions from the media, whisking her away from journalists before the prescribed end of her furlough.

The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines condemned the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology's actions and demanded an investigation. BJMP said it will look into the accusations of overkill. The Interior Department defended the actions of the guards, saying they acted with restraint and professionalism despite being "abused by leftist groups aligned with Nasino."

A lawyers' group had fought for Nasino to be allowed to visit her baby when River was battling lung complications in the hospital. River died from pneumonia on October 9 without reuniting with her mother.

A local court initially gave her three full days to grieve with her family, but it was shortened to a total of six hours after the Manila City Jail appealed that they do not have enough personnel to secure the political detainee. However, during the wake, at least 40 armed jail officers and police personnel surrounded her. Nasino was also closely guarded during her child's interment.

Nasino and her two colleagues were arrested in the office of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan on Nov. 5 last year for possession of guns and explosives. She said the evidence against her was planted and vowed to continue the fight against injustice for the sake of her child.