House probe on deaths of big-name Bilibid inmates due to coronavirus sought
MANILA, Philippines — A party-list lawmaker on Tuesday called for a congressional inquiry to shed light on the deaths of high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City allegedly due to COVID-19.
In a statement, ACT-CIS Party-list Rep. Niña Taduran appealed for transparency as she lamented how the government was “kept in the dark” over the deaths of the inmates inside the national penitentiary.
On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that nine high-profile NBP inmates died of COVID-19, including Jaybee Sebastian, a convicted kidnapper and car thief who served as a witness and co-accused in one of the drug charges against opposition Senator Leila de Lima.
“All avenues must be explored in the interest of transparency – we have been kept in the dark until a newspaper reported Jaybee Sebastian’s death and cremation,” Taduran said.
“In this special case, witnesses should be called to be present at the cremation including a relative of the victim. There should be a protocol to prove the death of an inmate,” Taduran added.
The neophyte lawmaker also argued that the Data Privacy Act cannot be cited in the non-disclosure of the details regarding the deaths of inmates contrary to the assertion of Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag, who refused to publicize the names of the inmates who allegedly died of COVID-19 citing the Data Privacy Act, which protects persons from unauthorized processing of their personal information.
“It is a matter of national interest that’s why we are calling for transparency. The concerned agencies must present fool-proof evidence regarding the death of a high profile inmate and others,” Taduran said.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier warned that the lack of transparency on the part of BuCor is “dangerous” and “prone to different kinds of abuses.” —with a report from Jim Mendoza, trainee
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