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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Baby River, another collateral damage of President Duterte and PH Justice System’s creeping misogyny

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Featured image credits to Mike Navallo of ABS CBN News

*co-written by Kirchoff Thomas Angala

The President’s tyrannical crusade against women who are opposed to him has highlighted the broader issues of sexism and misogyny surrounding his administration. Calling him as a “Serial Misogynist” by some writers, President Duterte’s relentless and vicious attacks against women activists perpetuate a dangerous culture among the ranks of our military and police forces. How?

We all know how the President loves to visit military and police camps. In fact, he has visited the military more often than any other sectors of Philippine society. And in these visits the onslaughts against women dissenters like Senator De Lima, Maria Ressa, Chief Justice Sereno and even Vice President Leni Robredo are made. 

Duterte carries such a high contempt and disdain for strong women that even those who are relatively “low-profile” become targets of his foul mouth. For instance, we can vividly recall Duterte’s sick joke which called on soldiers to shoot female guerilla fighters in their vaginas. Through the years, he unconsciously nurtured this culture of misogyny and hate among law enforcers. He used his anti-crime platform to blatantly disregard constitutionally guaranteed rights of a PDL’s dignity, innocence and full respect for human rights.  

And now, the treatment of Senator Leila De Lima is no longer an isolated case. The sequences of injustice present in the story of Reina Mae Nasino and her 3-month old baby, River, is a trail of misogynistic onslaughts that is directly handpicked from Duterte’s macho-fascist handbook. There is a multitude of levels in which this wretched narrative is anchored to, and one of which is the emerging phenomenon of Duterte and his uniformed men—the PNP’s, misogyny.

The Philippines has long been a home of a justice system that is selective in nature, and with a misogynistic head of the state, it became more prevalently unfavorable for this country’s women—especially the ones who are highly critical of the current administration’s authoritarian rule. 

Aside from the fact that Duterte possesses a foul mouth that speaks an innate language of misogyny, his ideology and prejudice against women and activists extend up to his commandos in the military and the police. To put this narrative and perspective into recent events, Zara Alvarez, 39, a former political prisoner and a human rights activist, who continued to become a paralegal for Karapatan and an advocacy officer of the Negros Island Health Integrated Program (NIHIP), was killed in Bacolod City on the 17th of August year 2020. She is one of the many activists in the country who were tagged as “terrorists” on a proscription case by the DOJ filed in 2018, along with Randall Echaniswho was also killed a week prior to Zara Alvarez’s murder. And just this October, Reina Mae Nasino, a political prisoner and a mother, and her child, Baby River, suffered from the same oppressive force and system of selective justice. 

The hate of this administration not just towards dissent, but also towards women, is undoubtedly depicted in Reina Nasino’s grievous story.

On the 5th day of November 2019, Reina Nasino along with Ream Bautista and Alma Moran was forcefully arrested for illegal possession of firearms—to which, they defended themselves stating that these are all planted evidences. At that time, Reina is already pregnant with Baby River, and during those time, an appeal was already made that urged the Supreme Court “for the humanitarian release of elderly, vulnerable, and sick political prisoners” during the COVID-19 pandemic. But obviously, Reina remained to be behind bars—and that is even after giving birth to her baby, River. 

Reina never received proper pre-natal check-up during her 9-month pregnancy. While on the 13th day of August 2020, the mother and the child were separated, amidst the fact that Baby River is underweight and weak, and Reina’s right to breastfeed her child for the first six months was not met because of the denial by the state. 

Baby River showed symptoms of the COVID-19 and was admitted to the Philippine General Hospital, but even though she tested negative, on the 9th of October 2020, Baby River died after suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

The three-month old baby did not have the chance to reunite with her mother, and even at her wake, they were deprived by the state to be mother and daughter. Instead of the supposed 3-day furlough of Reina Nasino to properly grieve during the wake of her daughter, she was only granted three hours of furlough—as per the BJMP’s excuse of “lack of personnel”. But this “lack of personnel” is a clownery, as there is at least 40+ members of the police that are escorting Reina during the span of her furlough. 

And on the burial of Baby River, Reina Nasino, handcuffed and heavily guarded by state forces, was deprived again of her right to properly mourn and grieve for the death of her child. The disrespect for the mother and the child’s last moments is not outrageous; it is agitating in different degrees. 

This country’s fascist regime and absence of justice is already intolerable and goes beyond the limit of human conscience and morality. The word ‘heartless’ is a gross understatement to describe it all. The degree of selective justice is so obvious, yet highly tolerated because not everyone is a victim and will become a victim of the same—but this is a predicament that every Filipino should be afraid of, because in a country where selective justice is established systematically through a meticulous process of bending of the rule of law, everyone is potential victim of the same injustice that happened to Reina Mae Nasino and Baby River. 

Now a lot of questions remain. Why is it that the ones who truly care for this country are the ones who are deprived of peace and justice? While the corrupt officials who remain in power live quietly and peacefully? Why is it that Bong Revilla Jr. who is a convicted plunderer was able to have a private time with his dying father during his furlough when he was still detained? Why is it that Imelda Marcos, a plunderer and a complicit of a mass murderer, was able to bury the body of her dictator husband Ferdinand Marcos at the “Libingan ng mga Bayani”? All of which, while Reina Nasino, a grieving mother of her child who was killed by an oppressive society, was deprived of the same privileges? 

This classist state, fascist authority, selective justice against the minority, and continuous cycle of injustice for the past few years are all products of a misogynistic ideology of this country’s main man. Duterte’s hate against women reflected on his inhumane acts and constant disrespect for human rights and human life. We cannot expect someone to respect human life if he cannot respect the bearer of this life. 

With another heartbreaking story of injustice that tormented a mother and child, to be mute and blind is to be complicit of the crime. This is the time for us to speak up and engage actively against these injustices and not be blinded by our privileges, and it is just as significant to realize that once these safeguards and privileges are gone, we will become victims of the same society that we tolerated. 

Reina Nasino’s last words in front of her three-month old baby’s coffin is a message for every Filipino people who are denied of the same peace and justice.

“Hindi tayo nag-iisa, panandalian yung pagdadalamhati natin pero babangon tayo.” 

Our democratic society is divided once again. Everyone is entitled to free speech; some even bashed Reina and questioned her. But is this really the society we want for our Children to inherit? The horrendous pictures say it all.  Is it only the PNP and BJMP or are we also unconsciously embracing this misogynistic culture perpetuated by the President himself? We should call it out and seek accountability or just be peacefully callous to another wound silently eating up our democracy. 

#EndAllAttacksAgainstWomen #NoToMisogyny 

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