May 26, 2018, 7:48 pm
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Female visitors of jailed NPAs claim they were strip-searched

SEVERAL female visitors were made to strip while visiting members of the communist New People’s Army at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Karapatan said it filed a complaint last Monday before the Commission on Human Rights against Bureau of Jail Management and Penitentiary Director Deogracias Tapayan and the facilities’ Special Intensive Care Area 1 warden Joey Gencera over these violations.

“There was no compelling reason given as to why the relatives of political prisoners were subjected to such arbitrary and humiliating jail policies and procedures, which do not just violate the rights of the detainees and their families,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

Palabay said these acts also “undermine domestic laws pertaining to violence against women (VAW) and policies regarding gender and development and international standards on the treatment of prisoners, as well as the protection of their visitation rights.”

Karapatan said the acts were in violation of the 2015 Comprehensive Operations Manual of the BJMP, particularly in the conduct of search on visitors of inmates.

One of the alleged victims, Fe Cerillo – wife of NPA leader Roland Carandang – was ushered in by jail guards to a comfort room and instructed to unbutton her lower pants and lower it, and her underwear, to knee level last October 5.

Last January 3, Karatapan said Siera Isabelle Castillo – daughter of NPA leader Ferdinand Castillo – was asked by jail personnel “to unlock her brassiere and unbutton her pants down to knee level.”

Like Cerillo, Castillo was not provided with a witness or presented an option to issue a waiver, said Karapatan.

Also last January 3, Nimfa Lanzanas, mother of NPA member Edward Lanzanas, “was required to undergo the same search procedure as Castillo and Cerillo.”

“BJMP personnel either do not know their own procedures, or are deliberately foregoing their responsibilities. Relatives of political prisoners have already been severely affected by the injustice of the illegal arrest and detention of their loved ones on the basis of trumped-up charges, the least they need is to be traumatized by being subjected to such degrading and humiliating procedures,” Palabay said.

BJMP spokesman Senior Insp. Xavier Solda said the bureau will look into the issues raised by Karapatan. “We appreciate the efforts of the said group in calling our attention on this particular issue,” said Solda.

“While we remain focused on strengthening the security protocols in our facilities, our policies are not meant to humiliate but to ensure the safety of the inmates under our care by preventing the entry of contraband,” Solda added.

Solda implied that jail personnel have been conducting the strip search because some visitors were found to be concealing contraband in their clothing.
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