'Tao rin kami': Partner of Bilibid inmate decries 'traumatizing' strip search
MANILA, Philippines – A partner of a political prisoner on Monday, January 6, filed a complaint over the "degrading" strip search and cavity search she experienced at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
"Sana po matulungan ninyo kaming mga asawa ng mga political prisoner na itigil na ang strip search at cavity search sa amin," human rights worker Jimmylisa Badayos said. "Tao rin kami at sana respetuhin din kami bilang tao."
(I hope you'll help stop the strip search and cavity search for families of inmates. We are humans too and we deserve respect.)
In a complaint filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Badayos recalled that two officers asked her to remove her clothes and bend while a mirror was placed in between her thighs on December 29, 2019.
"Pinatayo at pinaharap ako sa kanya, while nakababa hanggang tuhod ang pants ko at pina-bend ng konti at kumuha siya ng mirror at inilagay in between sa dalawang hita ko," she said. "Tapos pinatalikod niya ako at pinatuwad at inilagay ulit sa may puwet ko ang mirror at sabay sabing, 'Umubo ka.'"
(She asked me to stand and face her and bend, while my pants were down to my knees, before placing a mirror in between my legs. Then she told me to turn around and bend again, then placed the mirror near my butt and told me to cough.)
Badayos said she just followed because she wanted to see her partner Calixto Vistal, who has been detained in the NBP's Maximum Security Compound since 2013.
"Lahat ng sinabi ng searcher ginawa ko na labag sa kalooban, pero ginawa ko para lang makapasok at makita ang asawa ko," she said. "Kahit may asawa na ako, nakakatrauma 'yung ginawa nila."
(I did everything they asked me to do even if it were against my will, so I could go inside and visit my husband. Even if I have a husband, it was still traumatizing.)
Read Badayos' full letter to the CHR below.
Rule 60 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners set by the United Nations states that "search and entry procedures for visitors shall not be degrading" and that body cavity searches "should be avoided."
Rappler reached out to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), but has yet to receive a response as of posting.
Complaints over extensive searches are just one of the issues hounding BuCor, especially in the aftermath of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) crisis and amid reports that there are illegal drugs inside Bilibid. (READ: Bilibid returnees die in Duterte administration blunders)
BuCor chief Gerald Bantag, who took over from disgraced Nicanor Faeldon, employed his shock style to address these issues, including demolishing shanties which has created a domino effect on living conditions inside Bilibid. (READ: Bantag tries to slay Bilibid's old monsters, Duterte-style)
In October 2019, he placed Bilibid under lockdown, leaving families unaware of their loved ones' conditions inside. (READ: Bilibid inmates' families to BuCor: Let us see our loved ones)
Rights group Kapatid has called for the immediate lifting of the restrictions as "the sin of one is not the sin of all."
"Only the guilty party should bear the corresponding penalty of bodily search in accordance with international guidelines and of being banned from visiting for a certain duration," the group said. – Rappler.com