A Supreme Court justice’s call for relief for Baby River came late
MANILA, Philippines — The branches of government have a role to play in protecting a “baby from adverse consequences that are not of the baby’s own doing,” a Supreme Court Associate Justice said, referring to three-month-old baby River, child of political detainee Reina Mae Nasino.
“I do not know if her baby now stays with her. But if the baby does, it is entitled to separate protection apart from its mother, petitioner Nasino, would be entitled to,” Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier said in her separate opinion.
“We have been quarantined for almost half of this year already, our courts and others have lost the equivalent of about six-months of man-hours, all because of the REAL dangers to life, health and overall well-being of the entire population of the Philippines and the entire world. I would like the Court to give relief to petitioner Nasino’s baby not because of the ineptitude of respondents [referring to prison authorities], but as a result of the reality of the greater risks facing petitioner Nasino’s baby coming from facts about this pandemic,” she said.
However, a copy of the 301-page ruling — nine pages for the main decision and the rest containing several separate opinions — reached the counsel for petitioners only recently, when baby River had already died.
When the petition was filed, 22 petitioners, including then five-month pregnant Nasino, appealed for an equitable remedy from the high court to allow them temporary freedom because their condition made them more vulnerable at getting infected with COVID-19 inside congested jails.
The petition was filed in April. In July, the high court ruled that it should be the lower courts — where the cases of the 22 petitioners were pending — that should determine if they were entitled to temporary liberty.
That same month, Nasino gave birth to a baby girl, whom she named River.
However, parties to the case have yet to receive a copy of the ruling. A copy of the decision is needed to determine a losing party’s next action. A copy of the decision arrived only late last week.
Baby River died last Friday.
Nasino, through her counsels, is now again asking the courts for compassion, this time, to allow her to personally see her daughter for the last time.
In the nine-page decision dated July 28, all the justices ruled that the petition filed by the 22 political prisoners be treated as a petition for bail or recognizance to be decided by the lower courts where their respective cases are pending.
Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid said: “It has been a long and difficult wait, and hurtful because while we expected swift and positive action, the Supreme Court, despite the prisoner’s life and death situation in overcrowded, disease-ridden jails, let go of five months and neglected the call of prisoners who hoped for at least a chance to survive.”
“Handwashing works for COVID-19 but not for the SC for this petition,” she said.
The high court said it could not grant a blanket decision for the 22 prisoners because their conditions of detention were different. They added that the case involved factual consideration which only the lower court could decide.
The decision, however, did not indicate its author. Neither did it indicate that it is a per curiam — that is, anonymous — ruling. When asked about it, the high court spokesperson, lawyer Brian Keith Hosaka, said that even if not indicated, the decision is considered per curiam.
Under the high court’s internal rules, a decision will be per curiam if the case involves dismissal from service, disbarment or indifinite suspension, or in agreement by the majority or upon the request of a member.
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