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NBP probe may be whitewashed – group

MANILA, Philippines — Rights group Karapatan has warned of a possible whitewash in the investigation of strip searches on female visitors of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said a cover-up of the case is possible after the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) relieved low-ranking corrections officers instead of their supervisors who gave the orders on the routine strip searches being conducted on the visitors at the NBP’s maximum prison compound.

The strip search controversy arose after the wives of two prisoners were subjected to a strip search on April 21 even if they have no history of smuggling any kind of contraband.

“The stringent searches conducted on visitors and the items they bring in mean that contraband can only be smuggled in if prison officials, especially highly placed ones, make this possible,” Palabay said in a statement.

Palabay said corruption is largely behind the proliferation of contraband in the prisons, stressing that pressing down on visitors through strip searches and other inhumane methods can only be a smokescreen to conceal the role of corrupt officials in bringing contraband into the prison facility.

Palabay backed observations that strip searches violate the Mandela Rules or the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, which include provisions on intrusive searches.

“The NBP must zero in on the central issue of corruption and stop making scapegoats out of visitors, especially families and friends of political prisoners,” she said.