The situation for human rights defenders in the Philippines has deteriorated during the past months. The assassination of Jory Porquia has been followed by the murder of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez, just to name the most prominent ones.
Human rights defenders have to face the criminalization of their peaceful and rights-based work and find themselves in a situation of constant threat. Especially activists and civil society players are facing significant pressure. Amidst this massive campaign of assassination and intimidation all civil society players have come to fear for their lives. Rappler, one of the few remaining critical voices, reported on the threats human rights defenders have to face, i.e. through the distribution of death lists via SMS.
The relentlessness towards activists becomes apparent in the case of human rights activist Raena Mae Nasino. Nasino was arrested in November 2019 for alleged possession of firearms and explosives. She found out she was pregnant after she got arrested and gave birth to her baby daughter River Emanuel Nasino in prison on July 1, 2020. After only one month the baby was separated from her against the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, but according to Philippine law. Nasino was not allowed to breastfeed or even see her baby, not even when the newborn had to be hospitalized over her worsening health condition on September 24, 2020. Baby River finally died from pneumonia at the age of less than three months. Nasino’s furlough for the wake and burial of her daughter was shortened from six days to several hours. Nasino was handcuffed for the entire duration of the ceremony. This cruelty against mother and child represents a violation of prisoners’ rights and shows the conscious humiliation used to silence critical voices.