Kin of political prisoners in Bicutan initially denied entry

Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners Spokesperson Fides Lim (center) said that she was not allowed to visit her husband, peace consultant Vicenta Ladlad.

The families also seek a dialogue with the BJMP officials “to put a stop to such unreasonable, illegal and unjust prohibitions that violate the right of families and friends of political prisoners to visit them.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Kin of political prisoners currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig complain of being restricted to visit their loved ones.

On Dec. 21, relatives of the political prisoners were made to wait long hours before they were allowed entry.

For her part, Kapatid – Families and Friends of Political Prisoners Spokesperson Fides Lim said that she was not allowed to visit her husband, peace consultant Vicenta Ladlad, after waiting in Gate 1 for long hours.

“An officer named Major Rex Pascua said that I could not be allowed in because of the order of the higher ups. Who are they (higher ups)?” she said, adding that there was no explanation why she was not allowed to visit her husband.

In a letter addressed to the officials of the BJMP last Dec. 22, after waiting for nearly five hours, Lim was told to leave the premises of Gate 1 “because the gate was allegedly going to be closed.”

Families also lamented that they have been visiting their detained relatives in accordance with Camp Bagong Diwa/MMDJ-4 rules and regulations for several months, some even for years now.

“We do not bring in illegal drugs, and we are well known by prison authorities for our policy against this and also for observing restrictions on what are considered contraband items,” the letter added.

Paskuhan not pushed through

The yearly Paskuhan, an annual activity led by human rights group Hustisya inside the jail facility, was also denied. This was the reason why on Dec. 21, some of the families and friends of political prisoners were denied entry.   “Why should the prohibition of an event that did not push through on Dec. 21 be used as the reason for denying the entry of visitors even on Dec. 22?” they asked.

In the letter, the families said that although the Paskuhan event did not push through they can still visit their relatives in prison.

“The prohibition of that Paskuhan, although questionable, also does not affect our right to visit in our capacity as wives, children, grandchildren and friends of the persons deprived of liberty, nor their right to be visited. And why will the gatekeepers prohibit our entry when our own names do not appear in that letter at all? The gatekeepers told us, they were only ‘following orders.’ By whose orders?” Lim said.

The prohibition of the visitation of the families was also implemented arbitrarily according to the families.

“Why were the families of other prisoners and their friends, including foreign visitors, allowed entry without exception or exclusion? But why were the families and friends of political prisoners treated differently?” Lim added.

‘Prisoners have rights too’

National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) Secretary General Ephraim Cortez said the action of of the officers in Camp Bagong Diwa raises a serious concern since the relatives were barred from visiting their loved ones during the allowed visiting hours and while relatives of other prisoners were allowed entry.

Cortez said this is an obvious violation of the rights of the political prisoners involved. He added that the Constitution also assured their rights to be visited by the relatives on a regular basis. “This same right is also recognized by the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which also recognizes the rights of prisoners to maintain contact with their families and such right cannot be denied on the basis of religion, race, color and political and ideological considerations.”

Cortez cited the Republic Act 7438 which provides penal sanctions for officers or any public officials who withholds the rights of the detained.

“We are now exploring legal remedies not only for these political prisoners to be able to assert and enjoy continuously his rights but also to hold accountable the officers who are responsible to these acts,” he said.

The families also seek a dialogue with the BJMP officials “to put a stop to such unreasonable, illegal and unjust prohibitions that violate the right of families and friends of political prisoners to visit them.” (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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