By Benjamin Pulta

BuCor Director General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said Wednesday that seven officers were relieved of their duties to pave the way for the investigation into the complaint filed by the wives of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) recently subjected to a strip search at the National Bilibid Prison (NBP).

A strip search is the practice of searching a person for weapons or other contraband suspected of being hidden on their body or inside their clothing, by requiring the person to remove some or all clothing.

In a statement, BuCor Director General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. identified the relieved officers as Correction Officers 1 Karen Soriano, Kiera Iket, Odesa Etong, Ahmor Darasin, Guada Bello, Melowyne Tallongan, and Angelique Domingo.

They will be placed under “attached/unassigned” status at the NBP Superintendent’s Office after the relief order signed by Corrections Chief Inspector Ruben Formoso.

Catapang earlier said that strip search is being strictly implemented “without exception” in all prison facilities amid the increasing number of visitors caught sneaking in contraband concealed in their private parts.

“In the absence of body scanners, we have to do it manually in the meantime that we are looking for budget to avail (of) this very sophisticated machine for security screening purposes and to do away with physically removing the person’s clothes or making any physical contact,” he said.

In a separate statement, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla assured the public that the Department of Justice (DOJ) would not tolerate erring prison guards at the NBP who will be proven guilty of abusing their authority to conduct physical searches on visiting relatives/friends of PDLs.

He ordered the immediate investigation into the reports and review of possible sanctions to be imposed on offending prison officers/personnel.

The investigation of the seven correction officers will focus on whether they violated the protocol on the conduct of strip searches being implemented by the bureau in all its penal and correctional facilities nationwide.

During a walkthrough on Tuesday, Correction Senior Inspector Abel Ciruela, Camp Commander of the NBP Maximum Security Camp, showed the media how BuCor personnel conduct inspections of PDL visitors.

Ciruela pointed out that PDL visitors are given a waiver of the right to frisk/pat, rub, strip, and/or visual cavity search.

Those who do not voluntarily submit themselves to undergo the strip ca