In hospitals and in the hovels of the poor, vulnerable and impoverished illiterate, mothers are hoodwinked into parting with their children under false pretexts and many never see them again. Here is one example of a court battle in which a brave and determined mother is fighting to get back her twins taken from her when they were barely one year old.
On August 17, 2007, Teresita Legaspi gave birth to twin boys in a hospital in Olongapo City, the Philippines. Being poor, illiterate and abandoned by the father of the children, she could not pay the hospital bill.
Riza Mendoza was visiting the hospital and offered to pay the bill if Teresita gave her one of the twins as collateral. Desperate and afraid of the police, Teresita did. By November 2007, the baby had not been returned, so Teresita begged for help from Lourdes Sarmiento, the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Social Worker. Within two weeks the child was returned, and Teresita was overwhelmed with joy.
Then the babies fell sick. Teresita had no money for a doctor, but Lourdes Sarmiento and her husband Romeo offered to help. Before taking the twins to the hospital, they made Teresita sign a paper she could not read or understand. That was the last she saw of her babies.
When she challenged the Sarmiento couple, they told her she had no right to the babies because she had signed an Affidavit of Consent to Adoption. The twins, Joshua and Justine, were given to a couple by the name of Rico and Erlinda Amparo in Makati City. Teresita was devastated and in shock for a few days, but then she found the courage to go to the authorities and the media. Eventually she filed a petition for Habeas Corpus against the Sarmiento couple for the twins to be presented to the Olongapo Court. Branch 73, then under Judge Consuelo Bocar (now Judge Pamintuan) where Lourdes Sarmiento is a social worker.
The Sarmiento couple failed to present the twins to the court, yet nothing happened to them, since Lourdes Sarmiento was a Social Worker of that same court. However, according to Teresita, after office hours she offered cash to withdraw her petition. She adamantly refused as it was tantamount to selling her twins. The Olongapo court issued a subpoena for Rico Amparo at his address in Cityland Condominium, Makati. The subpoena was not served.
By then, Teresita was desperate. By November 2008 Rico Amparo and Rosa Erlinda Amparo filed a petition to the Makati Regional Trial Court Branch 144 for the adoption of Joshua and Justine Legaspi using the affidavit of consent which Lourdes Sarmiento got Teresita to sign under a false a pretext. By December the Makati court wisely denied the petition for adoption saying in effect that the affidavit of consent was null and void.
Yet there was nothing further Teresita could do. All the forces of the law, money and power were working against her, but she would not give up. She filed Kidnapping and Failure to Return a Minor under Article 270 of the Revised Penal Code against the Sarmiento couple on September 20, 2010. Later, Olongapo City Prosecutor Melani Fay T. Banarez, ruled in favor of Teresita, and the case was filed in court.
It went to Court Branch 73 where the same case for Habeas Corpus had been filed and heard and where the accused Lourdes Sarmiento was, and is still is, the Court Social Worker. The odds were stacked against Terisita. On April 25, 2011, the judge Norman Pamintuan dismissed the kidnapping charges. Judge Pamintuan ruled in favor of Sarmiento, his own accused social worker saying “probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest against the accused-spouses is wanting,” and because the mother did not get hysterical or emotional in the court and demand back her children and because she signed an affidavit of consent of adoption according to Judge Norbert Pamintuan.
Terisita denied she ever gave consent, a mother giving away her new born is highly unlikely and she is illiterate and can’t read English legal documents. She has been fighting for her children for almost four years. In May 2011, the dedicated Prosecutor Ria Sususco, a special prosecutor from the Department of Justice, began fighting the case for Teresita. However the judge has ruled against the prosecuter and denied all her motions for reconsideration and the mother was never allowed to testify on her own behalf. Is that justice denied?
Fr. Shay Cullen lives and works in the Philippines.