BuCor assures transparency in CHR probe on strip search policy

By Benjamin Pulta

May 17, 2024, 4:34 pm

<p><em>(File photo)</em></p>

(File photo)

MANILA – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday assured transparency in the investigation launched by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on prison strip searches on visitors of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).

In a statement BuCor Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. debunked claims by militant groups of a possible whitewash in the investigation of strip searches on female visitors of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) .

“The Commission on Human Rights, they are at the forefront of this investigation, so how can there be a possibility of whitewash? Let us stick to the facts and not muddle and politicize the issue,” he said.

“We submitted to this investigation to prove that we have nothing to hide, in fact, we welcomed this investigation by the CHR which started Monday afternoon,” he said, noting that the seven corrections officers involved with the strip cavity search were just awaiting the subpoena from CHR for them to submit their sworn statements.

He reiterated that BuCor is one with the CHR in its mission to recognize and uphold human rights, more so with persons deprived of liberty.

“As a matter of fact, in December 2022, just less than two months after I was appointed as BuCor Director General, I signed a memorandum of agreement with CHR Chair Richard Palpal-latoc for closer cooperation and coordination towards ensuring the prevention of violations, and protection of the human rights of PDLs in all our operating prison and penal farms,” he said.

Meanwhile, Catapang said there are no political prisoners at BuCor-run correctional facilities, saying those jailed in their facilities are “convicted by courts due to criminal acts they committed.”

Based on records, the two complainants in the strip cavity search against the NBP, Gloria Almonte and Maricel Alcántara, have been in and out of the NBP 19 times and 16 times, respectively.

Almonte began visiting her husband on Nov. 4, 2023. Her husband, Dionisio Almonte, was sentenced to up to 17 years for rebellion.

Alcantara, on the other hand, began visiting her husband on Nov. 12, 2023. Her husband, Philip Alcántara, was sentenced to up to nine years for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. (PNA)