CHR launches probe of unattended Bilibid cadavers
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has initiated an independent investigation into the 176 cadavers of New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates left stored and unclaimed in a funeral home since December 2021.
The CHR also called on the government to undertake prison reforms to address the “degrading conditions” endured by persons deprived of liberty (PDL) even until death.
In a statement, CHR Chair Richard Palpal-latoc said the unclaimed cadavers, which were discovered in the course of the investigation into the Oct. 5 murder of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa, were a “serious concern” for the commission.
Police investigators looking into the Oct. 18 death of Cristito “Jun Villamor” Palaña, the alleged middleman in Mabasa’s killing, were surprised to learn about the corpses kept at Eastern Funeral Homes where they autopsied Palaña’s body.
It later turned out that Eastern Funeral, NBP’s only accredited mortuary, had provided a list to the Muntinlupa police station indicating at least 176 cadavers unclaimed since December 2021.
Ten of those bodies, which were already decomposing, were buried on Wednesday at NBP’s cemetery grounds.
Following her initial inspection of those corpses on Saturday, forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun said only 50 of those bodies were “suitable for examination,” as the rest “were too dried up already” and had shriveled like mummies.
The CHR pointed out that 50 to 60 of those corpses were of inmates who reportedly died of COVID-19.
“At this point, CHR shares the interest in finding the truth behind the deaths, as well as the conditions that resulted in hundreds of remains of PDLs awaiting proper burial,” Palpal-latoc said.
“It is unfortunate that even after death PDLs continue to suffer congestion and deplorable circumstances,” he added.
“With the present actions directed by the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies, CHR hopes to lend greater clarity on this [matter], given the degrading conditions in our jails and detention facilities,” the CHR chair also said.
He reminded jail officers that under the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, or the Mandela Rules, “the prison director shall at once inform the prisoner’s next of kin or emergency contact” in the event of that inmate’s death (Rule 69).
Furthermore, “the prison director shall report, without delay, any custodial death, disappearance or serious injury to a judicial or other competent authority that is independent of the prison administration and mandated to conduct prompt, impartial, and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of such cases” (Rule 71).
Palpal-latoc urged the government to “take more proactive efforts in ensuring prison reforms in keeping with its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol.”
The reforms, he said, should include a preventive mechanism to tackle conditions of PDLs that may be tantamount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment or torture. INQ
Finding truth about unclaimed Bilibid cadavers proving uneasy
10 of 176 PDL cadavers piled up in a funeral home now buried – BuCor
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