The Basilan Provincial Office of the Bangsamoro Human Rights Commission conducted a legal aid clinic today at the Basilan Provincial Jail in Brgy. Sumagdang, Isabela de Basilan. The legal aid clinic is pursuant to the BHRC’s protection mandate under the Bangsamoro Human Rights Act of 2019, whereby the Commission shall extend legal assistance to those who are at risk of being victims of human rights violations. The protection division of the Basilan Provincial Office, in collaboration with Muslim Lawyers in Zambasulta, had one-to-one discussions with the Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) about the nature of the offense they are charged with and their rights under the constitution, including remedies available to them under the rules of court. The goal of the clinic is to assure that the PDLs have understood and are fully aware of the alleged crimes they committed and their corresponding rights under the law. The PDLs’ access to food, medicine, and recreation, including their COVID-19 vaccinations, were also checked by the legal team to ensure their overall well-being during their detention. In addition to legal advice, the Commission provided free hygiene kits and food packs to the PDLs.

In its efforts to fulfill the mandate for facility monitoring under its human rights protection program, BHRC-Basilan personnel also pay a visit to Warden Nul Asmawil, who heads the LGU-funded provincial facility. In the meeting, the Commission, its mandates and functions, including its programs and activities, were introduced to the warden. More thoroughly discussed with the Warden was the facility monitoring function of the Commission, which inevitably includes the provincial jail. The objective of the monitoring of these facilities is to assure the principle that individuals who are detained or who are in prison retain all their rights except those that have been lost as a specific consequence of deprivation of liberty.

It was discussed that monitoring is also conducted to inform the government and the general public about the current state of detention facilities such as jails, prisons, and other detention centers. The BHRC uses jail visits to carry out its mandate of overseeing the government’s compliance with international human rights treaties and to fulfill its role as an independent monitor and evaluator of government human rights protection policies, planning, implementation, and performance, especially in upholding the rights of prisoners.