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Baby River case appealed to Supreme Court to help other mother prisoners

The National Union of Peoples' Lawyers (NUPL) filed a petition before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, December 15, still appealing the case of baby River Nasino so that even after death, her case may help other mother prisoners and their children.

The NUPL filed a petition for certiorari challenging the denial of the Court of Appeals (CA). The NUPL pleaded with the Supreme Court to accept the case and resolve it on merits even though baby River is already dead.

"While Reina Mae and River Emmanuelle were not afforded the kindness as an inseparable mother-child deserves, the cognizance and resolution of this case would hopefully help guarantee somehow that no mother and child would similarly be denied not only their basic rights under the law but of compassionate justice," the NUPL said in its petition.

Manila Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali denied the pleas of River's mother, activist Reina Mae Nasino, to be kept together for a year of breastfeeding either inside the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory or at the hospital. River died two months after being separated from Reina Mea.

The NUPL filed an appeal before the CA, but the appellate court denied it in November for being moot and academic, as River was already dead and had been buried at the time.

In its petition, the NUPL said the High Court can use its power of judicial review and take the opportunity to guide lower court judges should similar cases arise in the future.

The NUPL quoted Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier in her separate opinion in the decision on Reina Mae's and other activists' plea for temporary release during the pandemic.

"I believe that we have a role to play in protecting the baby from adverse consequences that are not of the baby’s own doing," Javier had written, highlighting the gaps of the justice system that allowed a baby to die.

The NUPL has sued Judge Umali, as well as prison officials, for what the group said was gross misconduct in handling baby River's case.

River's death had prompted prominent lawyers to publicly call on the Supreme Court to be more innovative to ensure the rights of prisoners, especially their innocent children.

"To dismiss the Petition just because of the death of Petitioner’s child will be a grave injustice to Reina Mae and other nursing PDLs and any mother for that matter," said the NUPL.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen had proposed promulgating rules on the Writ of Kalayaan, but that is still to move forward past the suggestion phase. 

Prisoners' rights group Kapatid called on Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to prioritize the Writ of Kalayaan, and make it his legacy, since Peralta will retire in March 2021, a year ahead of his mandatory retirement. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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