Political detainee seeks judge’s dismissal over baby’s death

Published November 21, 2020, 11:22 AM

by Jeffrey Damicog

A political detainee has filed a petition with the Supreme Court (SC) seeking the dismissal of a Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) lady judge concerning the death of a baby girl whom she ordered separated from the detained mother.

(Photo courtesy of Kapatid)

Political detainee Reina Mae Nasino filed before the SC’s Judicial Integrity Board (JIB) on Friday, Nov. 21, an administrative complaint against Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali of Manila RTC Branch 20.

In a complaint that was filed through her legal counsels from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), Nasino asked the JIB that Umali “be adjudged guilty of gross ignorance of the law and gross misconduct” and “be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of retirement benefits.”

Nasino, 23, coordinator of the urban poor organization Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Manila chapter, is facing non-bailable charges of illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives that she claimed were trumped up.

The charges were filed following her arrest with two other activists on Nov. 5, 2019 at Bayan’s office in Tondo, Manila where police found firearms and explosives which were claimed by the accused as having been “planted.” 

Nasino gave birth last July 1 to a baby girl whom she named River but the baby died last Oct. 1 after being ordered separated by the judge from her detained mother.

“Therefore, the respondent judge’s dismissal from the service is imperative. Even if this will not bring back baby River’s life or fill the void that she left in her mother’s heart, it will relieve the bench – and the public — of a magistrate who has lost the requisite competence, integrity and impartiality that are fundamental to her office,” read the complaint filed by the NUPL.

After giving birth at the Fabella hospital, the NUPL recounted that it filed before Umali last July 1 an urgent motion seeking extended stay for Nasino and her baby at the hospital on the basis of Republic Act 7600 or the Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992 as amended by RA 10028 or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009.

When Nasino was returned to the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory (MCJFD) along with her baby, the NUPL filed on July 6 a supplement urgent motion for pediatric and post-natal checkup due to instructions from doctors of Fabella Hospital who also “instructed the complainant to breastfeed her baby exclusively and on demand.”

However, Umali issued a July 20 order which denied the supplemental urgent motion and directed that “the baby be turned over to her father or any relative, who could take care of her better because the jail does not have sufficient facility for the care of the baby.”

The NUPL filed a motion for reconsideration for the ruling but Umali denied it in a July 30 order.

“Pursuant to this Order, the complainant gave baby River to her mother, Marites Asis, on August 13, 2020 with a heavy heart, not knowing that it would be the last time she would see her daughter alive,” the NUPL lamented.

The NUPL pointed out that “she was enforcing her right to feed her child with her breastmilk, as well her child’s concomitant right to be fed the same during the first days of life.”

“She invoked R.A. 7600 and R.A. 10028 — domestic laws embodying the State’s compliance with international human rights law recognizing the right to adequate food and the right to the highest attainable standard of health,” it explained.

Even in the absence of RA 7600 and RA 10028, the NUPL said the Supreme Court (SC) has ruled that “constitutional provisions protecting and promoting the right to health are considered self-executory and need no legislation in order to be implemented.”

With this, the NUPL said “the respondent judge ought to have known that the right to breastfeed, as a component of the constitutional right to health, is self-executory.”

It added that the judge was also informed that the Philippines is also one of the states which adopted the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, known as the Bangkok Rules.

“The Bangkok Rules also acknowledge the need for mothers and their children to stay together in prison. But while these Rules do not expressly state that breastfeeding infants should not be separated from their mother until they have weaned, the best interests of the children are prescribed as a standard in decisions regarding their stay and separation,” it pointed out.

Aside from these, the NUPL accused the magistrate of violating the constitutional right of due process of Nasino and her co-accused.

The NUPL cited that “the respondent judge, without justification, repeatedly refused to subpoena the records for the application of the search warrants purportedly implemented during the arrest of the complainant and her co-accused.”

“By the time she issued the requested subpoena during the first day of trial, it was already too late, as the accused have already filed — and been denied — their respective motions to quash,” it lamented.

Also, the NUPL said Umali “refused to acknowledge and scrutinize the police’s non-compliance with the unequivocal rule of the Constitution with regard to the validity of search warrants.”

The NUPL has questioned the validity of the search warrant since “they were served in a place different from the place stated therein and that they failed to describe the place to be searched with particularity.”