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Divulge information on deaths of inmates in New Bilibid Prison, BuCor urged

/ 12:41 PM July 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Muntinlupa City Rep. Ruffy Biazon is calling on the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to divulge information on the deaths of inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP), saying that these cases—especially as they happened while under the custody of the government—should not be hidden behind concerns of data privacy.

Biazon made the call after the death of several high-profile inmates from the NBP, a number of whom were convicted drug lords.

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“The death of inmates under the custody of the Government, regardless if they are convicted of a crime, should not be hidden behind the Data Privacy Act. The family of the person, and even the public, has a right to know if the deaths that occurred in a government facility was of natural causes or wrongdoing,” Biazon said in a statement.

“Most of all, circumstances of the death of any person deprived of liberty under the custody of government should never be hidden, and no excuse to conceal it should ever be accepted,” the lawmaker added.

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Biazon explained that only the person himself/herself or members of the family can invoke privacy under RepubliC Act 10173 or the Data Privacy Act.

“In the case of the inmates who died, the data subject obviously cannot invoke privacy and their family will most likely want to know the details of the death of their loved one,” Biazon said.

The lawmaker said that under BuCor’s charter as stated under the “Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013”, the bureau has the mandate of “safekeeping of national inmates.”

Furthermore, Biazon said that under the law, safekeeping is defined as “the act that ensures the public (including families of inmates and their victims) that national inmates are provided with their basic needs, completely incapacitated from further committing criminal acts, and have been totally cut off from their criminal networks (or contacts in the free society) while serving sentence inside the premises of the national penitentiary.”

“It is clear that in the performance of that mandate to safekeep the inmates, the BuCor has an obligation to the public. Clearly, the Data Privacy Act excludes the performance of that function from its scope,” Biazon said.

“There is no hindrance for the Bureau to withhold information about the deaths of inmates in their custody,” he added.

Questions were raised on whether or not the deaths of the high-profile inmates were simulated after BuCor invoked the Data Privacy Act in withholding the names of the fatalities.

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On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that one of those who died was high profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian who is set to testify in the drug case against Senator Leila De Lima.

During the meeting between Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag, it was confirmed that 21 persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have died since March.

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