MANILA - Three months since filing a Supreme Court petition calling for the release of sick, elderly and other prisoners susceptible to acquiring the coronavirus, families and friends of political prisoners returned to the high court on Tuesday tying blue ribbons, hoping for a speedy resolution of their plea.
Taking a page from the popular song "Tie a yellow ribbon," group Kapatid, composed of families and friends of political prisoners, tweaked the song's lyrics: "It's been three long months, look, we now have a baby."
Detainee Reina Mae Nasino, 23, gave birth to baby River on July 1 at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. The two are now back at the Manila City Jail in a makeshift room away from the rest of the detainees.
Nasino is facing charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives following her arrest in Tondo last year. She denies the charges.
Nasino's mother Marites Asis was one of those who trooped to the Supreme Court Tuesday, begging the magistrates to release her daughter and granddaughter.
"Ako po, bilang ina ni Reina Mae ay nagmamakaawa sa inyong tanggapan na ibaba ninyo ang desisyon para sa kaniyang paglaya," she said in a handwritten letter for Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
(I as Reina Mae's mother pleads for you to hand down the decision for her release.)
A tearful De Asis later told the media:
"Nananawagan po ako na ibaba na ang desisyon sa anak ko. Dahil ang kalagayan po nila hindi maganda doon kung nandoon sila sa loob ng jail. Nananawagan po ako na mabigyan ng kalayaan ang anak ko."
(I appeal for a decision on my daughter's case. Because of their condition, it's not good that they are in jail. I appeal that my daughter be released.)
Her letter was personally received by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, who relayed Peralta's message assuring her that the top magistrate is doing everything he could to speed up the resolution of the petition.
With De Asis was Kapatid spokesperson Fides Lim, who, in a separate letter, urged the high court to release the mother so she could breastfeed and take care of her baby.
"It's a gamble that a sickly infant should even be inside prison during this pandemic. But this is precisely the situation which defines the purpose and urgency of our petition. That there isn't much choice inside jail. Except to struggle to live from day to day. That judicial intervention is necessary. Especially for those who have less chances of survival against a killer virus that preys on the old and the sick," she said.
Lim is also appealing for the release of her husband, National Democratic Front consultant Vicente Ladlad, 71, who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other pulmonary complications.
She said she hasn't seem him since March.
She reminded Peralta of his own words in justifying the release of thousands after the high court introduced measures during the lockdown:
"It must be remembered that they have not yet been convicted. They are still innocent. And yet they are highly at risk of being infected by the deadly virus. It’s already like imposing the death penalty on them even before their guilt can be established beyond reasonable doubt," Peralta said.
The Office of the Court Administrator, in figures released Wednesday, said 43,171 detainees have been released from March 17 to July 3 either on bail, on recognizance or found to have served the minimum sentence imposable in the charges they are facing. Almost 9,000 of these detainees came from the National Capital Region.
Peralta had previously said they were waiting for the justice in charge to return from Visayas but weeks had passed and the SC still has yet to issue any order regarding the political prisoners' petition.
For the families of political prisoners, they've waited too long.
"Three months of waiting is beyond enough," KAPATID said.
"Please act now, it's Tuesday, please set them free."