Wife of political prisoner decries inhumane treatment

Jimmylisa Badayos talks about the treatment she got when she visited her husband, political prisoner Calixto Vistal. (Photo by Carlo Manalansan / Bulatlat)

By 3 p.m., Badayos finally got inside the inspection area. Two female jail guards asked her to lift her shirt and she was frisked from the breast down. She was then asked to pull her pants and underwear down to her knees. She was instructed to bend forward and hop three times. One of the guards placed a mirror between her legs and asked her to emit a cough. It was only then she was allowed to go.

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Jimmylisa Badayos took a trip from Cebu to Manila to visit her husband Calixto Vistal during the holidays. She did not expect that the visit to would leave her traumatized.

On Dec. 29 last year, Badayos queued as early as 9 a.m. at the entrance of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City where Vistal, a political prisoner, is detained. Vistal was a factory worker who was arrested along with Jimmylisa on Oct. 5, 2012. While Badayos was acquitted of illegal possession of firearms and explosives, Vistal got convicted. He was transferred to the NBP in October 2013.

By 3 p.m., Badayos finally got inside the inspection area. Two female jail guards asked her to lift her shirt and she was frisked from the breast down. She was then asked to pull her pants and underwear down to her knees. She was instructed to bend forward and hop three times. One of the guards placed a mirror between her legs and asked her to emit a cough. It was only then she was allowed to go.

She went back on January 1. Badayos was so nervous she almost backed out upon seeing the jail guards at the inspection area. She tried to calm down and asked the guards if she could bring a sanitary napkin inside the jail, informing them of her monthly period. As expected, the jail guards instructed her to pull her pants and underwear down to her knees. They asked for her napkin and she was told to change it in front of the two jail guards.

“I was so traumatized. Grabe na pinagawa nila sa akin,” (It was too much!) Badayos told Bulatlat.

Badayos filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights, January 6 with the hope of putting a stop to the inhumane treatment to relatives of political prisoners like her.

Bruised but still fighting for human rights

Fides Lim, spokesperson of Kapatid, an organization of families of political prisoners, said in a statement, “Because of their intrusive nature, strip search and body cavity search violate a person’s dignity, bodily integrity and right to privacy. These are also considered a state-sanctioned form of sexual assault that amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

According to Kapatid, an organization of families of political prisoners, what happened to Badayos is not an isolated case. The group said visitors of political prisoners and common prisoners are routinely forced to undress and expose their private parts to guards to prove they are not hiding illegal drugs and disallowed items like SIM cards.

“Women are even made to remove their sanitary napkins to prove they are menstruating. The net effect is so demeaning it discourages women from visiting altogether,” the group said in a statement.

Kapatid urged jail authorities to put an immediate stop to the” humiliating, debasing, abusive and dehumanizing practice of strip search and cavity search for the families and other visitors of political prisoners.”

Adhere to international standards

Kapatid also called on the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to adhere to international standards governing intrusive search procedures.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules), particularly Rule 60 (2), states, “Search and entry procedures for visitors shall not be degrading and shall be governed by principles at least as protective as those outlined in Rules 50 to 52. Body cavity searches should be avoided and should not be applied to children.”

Relatedly, Rule 50 underscores that “searches shall be conducted in a manner that is respectful of the inherent human dignity and privacy of the individual being searched, as well as the principles of proportionality, legality and necessity.” Rule 51 proscribes searches used to “harass, intimidate or unnecessarily intrude upon a prisoner’s privacy.”

Rule 52 is likewise applicable to visitors of prisoners:

“(1) Intrusive searches, including strip and body cavity searches, should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary. Prison administrations shall be encouraged to develop and use appropriate alternatives to intrusive searches. Intrusive searches shall be conducted in private and by trained staff of the same sex as the prisoner.
(2) Body cavity searches shall be conducted only by qualified health-care professionals other than those primarily responsible for the care of the prisoner or, at a minimum, by staff appropriately trained by a medical professional in standards of hygiene, health and safety.”

The United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules), particularly Rule 20, are additionally instructive: “Alternative screening methods, such as scans, shall be developed to replace strip searches and invasive body searches, in order to avoid the harmful psychological and possible physical impact of invasive body searches.”

Lim maintained that political prisoners are well known for not bringing in, using or dealing with illegal drugs that largely victimize the poor and the youth. She noted that the proliferation of the illegal drug trade in the NBP, according to the current BuCor leadership and a Philippine National Police head, is mainly due to corrupt prison personnel who smuggle these in collusion with imprisoned drug lords.

Kapatid said that body frisk with inspection of belongings/packages should suffice as the standard protocol that is already employed in various prison facilities for visitors of political prisoners and those prisoners who are known not to engage in illegal drugs. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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