Gordon: BuCor execs may be held liable over high-profile NBP inmates’ deaths
MANILA, Philippines — Officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) may be held administratively liable over the supposedly questionable death and cremation of several big-name convicts in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Senator Richard Gordon said Tuesday.
“Right now I don’t want to adjudge the case pero administratively, may pananagutan sila. Misconduct ‘yan. Great misconduct. Under what authority do you have to release a prisoner? You say he died of COVID-19 and therefore you sent him right away and he was cremated,” Gordon said in a virtual interview with reporters.
Gordon chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee as well as the justice and human rights panel, which will likely lead the investigation of the upper chamber on the deaths of inmates in NBP and other BuCor penal facilities.
“Absolute misconduct for allowing prisoners to die without giving proper treatment. Violating protocols of the Department of Health that anybody with COVID must be brought to a COVID-19 hospital or at least get a separate area in that hospital for COVID treatment,” he also said.
According to Gordon, BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag should have reported to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health (DOH) the COVID-related deaths of inmates, especially of the high-profile ones.
“Ilalabas nila kung kailan patay na, nasunog na. Nakakaduda ‘yun. ‘Di tama ‘yun…The silence was deafening from the very beginning. Talagang itinago,” the senator said.
(They will only release information once they are dead and cremated. That raises a lot of doubts. That’s not right. The silence was deafening from the very beginning. They really hid it.)
“Grave misconduct ang lalabas diyan (They could be charged with grave misconduct) at the very least. They have the duty to perform and they did not do it well. They did it in a very negligent way. Gross negligence. Negligence so gross as to amount to bad faith,” the senator added.
Questions were raised on the deaths of at least nine high-profile prisoners after it was reported that they had died due to COVID-19 and were immediately cremated.
The BuCor chief has refused to disclose the names of the nine high-profile inmates, saying that the Data Privacy Act prohibits them to do so.
But Gordon contradicted Bantag and pointed out that the data privacy law cannot be invoked in the deaths of prisoners.
“Walang Privacy Act sa preso. Ang Privacy Act lang pagka, let us say, ‘yung binisita ka ng abogado mo, hindi pwedeng basahin ‘yung sulat ng abugado mo, lawyer-client relationship ‘yan. Pag bumisita ‘yung asawa mo, ‘di pwedeng silipin ‘yang mga ‘yan,” he explained.
(There’s no Privacy Act in prison. The Privacy Act can be invoked when your lawyer gives you a letter, prison guards can’t open that because that’s a matter between a lawyer and a client. If your spouse visits you, you will be given privacy.)
While Gordon is not yet certain that there are indeed anomalies in the deaths of the high-profile inmates, like possible “body-switching,” he said that NBP’s “awful” track record can lead the public to raise such speculations.
“I’m chagrined. I’m really scandalized that they think they can pull one over us. I didn’t say na ginawa na nila pero (that they did) what I am saying as, at the very least, ‘pag namatay na high-profile prisoner (if a high-profile prisoner dies), they should report it to the DOJ,” the senator added.
Further, Gordon said President Rodrigo Duterte should ensure that liable officials should be held accountable.
“Gusto ko rin marinig ang sasabihin ng Presidente natin dahil dapat ang Presidente magsalita siya diyan. Hatawin niya kaagad yan at di pwedeng pagtatakpan na naman natin na katulad ng ibang opisyal, nakakalusot dahil ‘I backed him up’,” he said.
(I also want to hear what the President has to say because the President should also speak out. He should reprimand who needs to be reprimanded and not let it slide like other officials because he backed them up.)
“‘Di pwedeng sabihin na, ‘I backed him up’, kasi magagalit na talaga ang tao diyan,” he added.
(He can’t say, ‘I backed him up’, because the public will really be furious about that.)
Gordon said he is waiting for the Senate to refer the resolution filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III that seeks a probe on the issue to either of his committees before they can schedule a hearing, where the relatives of the deceased inmates could be invited.
In the meantime, he said his staff is now conducting an informal investigation to give way for the probe being conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation regarding the matter.
“We will address it but in the meantime, siyempre nagiimbestiga ‘yung co-equal branch, sila (DOJ) Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra, bibigyan natin [ng time] na makapag-interview muna sila. Pagkatapos, ‘pag nag-session na, we can call a hearing,” the lawmaker said.
(We will address it but, in the meantime, of course, a co-equal branch, DOJ Secretary Guevarra, we will give them time to conduct interviews. Then, once session resumes, we can call a hearing.)
“Ire-refer pa ‘yan [resolution] sa plenary. We are already investigating but it’s not formal because we have to get the referral otherwise wala kaming authority mag-investigate,” he added.
(The resolution has to be referred to us in plenary. We are already investigating but it’s not formal because we have to get the referral otherwise we have no authority to investigate.)
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