THE police should have killed Reina Mae “Ina” Nasino when they arrested her and fellow workers in a raid at dawn on Nov. 5, 2019. It would have saved the State at least the additional expenses it always claims it can ill afford.
Instead, Ina, obscured in personal protective equipment (PPE), dominated online feeds during the furlough of six hours that the court granted so the 23-year-old urban poor organizer of the nongovernment organization, Kadamay, formerly working in Smokey Mountain, Tondo, can leave the Manila City Jail to visit her daughter.
The other body rivaling Ina’s viral image belongs to the truly dead, baby River. Like her PPE-hidden mother, River cannot be seen, only imagined in the small white coffin her mother, handcuffed, touched with difficulty.
Mother and daughter are in white. Color of surrender, contagion, innocence, death.
Along with Ina, 61 other activists were arrested in Bicol and Manila on the strength of warrants signed by only one Quezon City judge, reported Lian Buan of Rappler. Had Ina been shot while “resisting arrest,” a dominant narrative explaining this country’s history of inconvenient bodies conveniently silenced, who would remember her now?
Ina and River “benefit” from the punitive justice that reduces bodies into “bodiless reality,” instruments to demonstrate that far better for extracting obedience to the State is not torture or death but “punishment... (that) strike(s) the soul rather than the body,” as Foucault, quoting Mably, states in “Discipline & Punish.”
In the ensuing war of opinions spouting over two bodies we barely see, the news photos of Ina and River illustrate the difficulty of seeing, past the long arms and uniformed escorts bristling around Ina’s white-coated figure during the wake and the burial, what the State and its instruments have effaced: underneath the PPE shroud are the breasts a mother was prevented by law and order from giving to her baby, born underweight after she carried her while jailed in a cell designed for 40 prisoners but holding 80.
No one dropped River into the cracks. Not the jails that don’t have facilities for breastfeeding inmates. Not the courts which ruled against her nursing while on hospital arrest and separated the infant from her mother a month after birth. Not the police, which used national security and the pandemic to keep mother and child apart even unto death.
Specially not us, so quick to condemn activists, dissidents, and political prisoners jailed for their beliefs.
This “bodiless reality”—who next after the Nasinos?—is superior to extrajudicial killing.
Thanks to the State in the time of Rodrigo Roa Duterte, we have a baby album like no other.