Detained activist Reina Mae Nasino on Friday filed a complaint before the Supreme Court seeking the dismissal of a Manila City regional trial court judge who had ordered her “premature separation” from her dead child.
In a complaint filed with the high court’s Judicial Integrity Board, Nasino, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, accused Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali of gross ignorance of the law, gross misconduct and bias against her when the judge refused to allow her to breastfeed her baby, River.
River died of pneumonia last October at three months old, less than two months after being separated from her mother.
The complainant also asked the high court to forfeit the judge’s retirement benefits for her alleged administrative offense.
Umali handled the illegal possession of firearms and explosives case against Nasino and two other activists before she inhibited in August. The case had been raffled off to another judge in Manila.
Nasino said Umali disregarded breastfeeding laws and international standards on the treatment of female prisoners when she “chose to accept [the] excuses” of the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory warden that the jail had no facility for newborn babies.
Nasino had insisted on her right to breastfeed River and stay with her until the baby turned a year old, considering she was born jaundiced and of low weight.
However, the judge rejected her motion and on Aug. 13 Nasino turned over her firstborn to her family.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology’s policy is to allow female detainees to stay with their newborn child for up to one month unless a qualified medicalpersonnel recommends they stay together longer.
The NUPL argued that Umali’s orders merely restated the claims of Ignacia Monteron, the jail warden, without citing any legal basis or explaining why those “should prevail over the positive mandate of applicable laws.”
“Instead of directing Monteron to find a way to comply with the Bangkok Rules and domestic laws respecting the best interests of a newborn infant, the respondent judge chose to accept her excuses,” the complaint said.
“The premature separation of baby River from the complainant was clearly not in her best interest. In fact, it is cruel, heartless and serves no purpose, especially amid a pandemic when the complainant’s breastmilk would have provided baby River her much-needed protection from life-threatening diseases,” the complaint said.
Because of the judge’s orders, Nasino, a first-time mom, was also deprived of the positive effects of breastfeeding to postpartum women, Nasino’s lawyers said.
“The respondent judge acted with conscious indifference to the rights of the complainant and her co-accused. Now the complainant is bereft of a child,” they said.
Besides, the NUPL said, Umali also showed bias and prejudice against Nasino and her fellow activists when she “denied them access to search warrant records, falsely ascribed a prejudicial admission to one of the accused, and wrongly accused the defense counsels of falsehood.”
Nasino, Ram Carlo Bautista and Almo Moran were arrested last year when police allegedly seized firearms and explosives from them during the implementation of a search warrant. But they said the firearms and explosives were planted.
The three were initially detained at Camp Crame and then transferred to the Manila City Jail in February 2020. Nasino only learned she was pregnant during a medical checkup before she was brought to the city jail.
According to her lawyers, this was the only time Nasino was seen by a government doctor during her entire pregnancy.
She received no other prenatal care other than a daily folic acid supplement and one ultrasound, they said.