Manila judge faces raps for parting Baby River from political prisoner ma

Maritess Asis (right) represented her daughter Reina Mae Nasino in filing charges against Manila Trial Court judge. They were assisted by the National Union of Peoples Lawyers filed charges against Manila Trial Court judge. (Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Metro Manila)


MANILA – Political prisoner Reina Mae Nasino, through her lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), filed gross ignorance of the law and grave misconduct charges against Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 presiding Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali, who repeatedly denied her pleas to allow her to stay and breastfeed her baby.

Nasino’s mother Maritess Asis filed the administrative complaints before the Office of the Court Administrator in the Supreme Court.

In a statement, lawyer Katherine Panguban said it was Umali who ordered the separation of Nasino and her daughter River Emmanuelle. This despite domestic and international measures recognizing mother and child’s right to breastfeed and the best interests of the child.

Read: No more Baby Rivers | Legislation, policy change for pregnant detainees

“She misquoted a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) rule from its Policy on Pregnant Inmates and Their Infants to justify her otherwise baseless order,” Panguban said.

Panguban explained that contrary to the express provisions of the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028) and the BJMP’s own Policy on Lactation Station, Umali denied Nasino’s pleas to be given access to lactation facilities inside the Manila City Jail Female Dormitory.

Instead, she added, the judge “sustained all the protestations of the jail warden, Jail Officer-in-Charge Ignacia Monteron, who callously made it appear that Reina Mae was seeking a privilege and not a right.”

Nasino filed a motion for reconsideration asking the court to allow her to take care of River for at least a year so that she could continue breastfeeding her. But the court rejected her appeal twice.

According to Monteron, the dormitory is over 300-percent congested and is not a healthy place for a baby. She also brushed off Nasino’s requests for a lavatory for handwashing, refrigerator or cooling equipment for breastmilk storage, among others. Nasino was instead referred to the local government unit or to the appropriate government agency.

Panguban also said that Umali also exhibited manifest bias and partiality against Nasino and her co-accused, Ram Carlo Bautista and Almo Moran, “by repeatedly refusing to subpoena the records of the search warrants and of spitefully accusing her counsels with falsehood solely on the basis of Monteron’s misrepresentations.”

“Reina Mae strongly believes that had Judge Balisi-Umali exercised diligence and impartiality, baby River could have been given her much-needed nutrition and maternal protection. Reina Mae would not be bereft of a child,” Panguban said.

Read: ‘Injustice led to the death of Baby River’ 

The underweight baby River, barely over a month, was separated from her mother. Deprived of mother’s warmth and breastmilk, she was later hospitalized and died of pneumonia on Oct. 9.

Panguban said that Nasino will also file charges against officers of the Philippine National Police and the BJMP who treated her in a cruel, inhuman and degrading manner during River’s funeral and internment. (

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