By Chito Chavez
Human rights group Hustisya called on Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Director Nicanor Faeldon to lift the cancellation of visiting rights to some 45,000 inmates in the country under its care.
Gloria Almonte, Hustisya secretary-general, said the cancellation of the visiting rights and other privileges “does not address the problem of the proliferation of illegal drugs and contraband in the jails.’’
“We are also concerned that this will further create hostilities among the inmates while letting the culprits get away with their criminal activities inside the jail,” said Almonte.
The revised implementing rules and regulation of RA 10575, or the Bucor Act of 2013, provides for the “proper observance of prescribed privileges such as regulated communication and visitation,” in compliance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
Almonte stressed the denial of visitation rights goes against the rules set by the BuCor.
“If the BuCor has already pinpointed inmates, or even from the ranks of officials and employees who are involved in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prisons and other jails, then why arbitrarily and collectively punish all inmates who are convicted and detained for correction and reformation?” said Almonte.
Hustisya, which provides services to political prisoners, also pointed out that previous experiences and steps to shut down NBP to visitors and limit the rights and privileges of persons deprived of liberty (PDL) have been proven futile in addressing the illegal activities inside the jail.
“Even before the cancellation of visits, visitors have undergone unjust procedures that go againstBuCor’s manuals and instructions, like the conduct of strip search or cavity search to all visitors,” she added.
Hustisya said that if BuCor officials are resolute in curbing the massive entry of illegal drugs and contraband in its jail facilities, “they should start from within and focus on the bigger targets who are masterminds of continuing criminal activities.’’
“Why not investigate pinpointed persons for possible complicity, with no special treatment for those who have been found guilty of these acts?” Almonte asked.
The group also urged Faeldon to look into the continuing problem of the proliferation of corrupt practices in the prison system, notwithstanding the inhumane conditions of inmates in detention.
Almonte said the dire conditions inside the jail go against the very principle that these facilities are supposed to be for the reformation of prisoners, “aside from the fact that many of them, like political prisoners, were convicted and put to jail for crimes they did not commit.’’
She reminded Faeldon the right to be visited are basic rights that should be upheld.
“We call on Director Faeldon to lift the cancellation of visits immediately,” Almonte urged.