Sebastian wife hysterical; Boratong kin not sure it was he they buried
MANILA, Philippines — Without tipsters inside the national penitentiary, relatives of convicted drug lord Amin Imam Boratong, one of the inmates who died of COVID-19, would have brought home only his ashes.
Faye (not her real name), a relative of Boratong, told the Inquirer on Tuesday that the family was able to retrieve his body and bury it last month on the same day he died, following Muslim burial customs.
The wife of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian, however, was not able to retrieve his body.
Sebastian’s wife, Roxane, went to New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa around the time the illegal drug trade witness supposedly died of COVID-19 last week.
A police incident report said Roxane went “hysterical” threatening a prison guard. It was not clear whether Roxane was made aware of her husband’s death at the time.
Sebastian had been moved to “Site Harry,” the prison’s quarantine building for infected inmates, three weeks before his death, according to a former prison employee.
The source said Sebastian was “dead on arrival” when brought to the NBP Prison Hospital.
A copy of Sebastian’s death certificate logged the time of death at 10:15 a.m. on July 18. The cause of death was acute myocardial infarction.
His remains were cremated immediately at a public cemetery in Dasmariñas City, Cavite province. No autopsy was conducted.
Based on an incident report, the wife arrived 30 minutes after Sebastian, who was convicted of kidnapping-for-ransom and car theft, died, according to a police source.
The report said Roxane appeared to have been waiting for someone at the gate before she got the “opportunity to talk” to Corrections Senior Insp. Joel Calvelo and CSO4 Amjonette Battad.
Calvelo is the NBP north superintendent, while Battad is assigned to the COVID Command Center.
At 11:45 a.m., “after the conversation, Roxane became hysterical and right in front of Calvelo shouted [while] pointing [her] finger, saying: “You son of a bitch. All of you! If something happened to my husband I will hold you responsible. I will have all of you killed.”
She then “walked away” and left, read the report.
Buried in Norzagaray
As for Boratong, he died at the NBP Prison Hospital due to “cardiorespiratory arrest, acute myocardial infarction and confirmed COVID-19” at 9:55 a.m. on June 5, according to his death certificate.
He would have turned 48 on July 14.
His body was transferred to Zenaida Lim de Mesa Memorial Chapel in Muntinlupa.
An employee confirmed that the funeral parlor was hired to transfer the body for burial in Norzagaray, Bulacan province.
But even the inmate’s loved ones were not sure if the body they shortly mourned on was indeed Boratong’s.
“We pleaded if we could see him one last time, but personnel of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) refused to open the body bag,” Faye said. “When we were transporting him, we were escorted by five BuCor guards to keep us from looking inside [the body bag].”
All of Boratong’s belongings were burned by the BuCor, citing health protocols. His medical records were not released to his relatives even upon the request of their lawyers.
They were also surprised to learn that Boratong had died of COVID-19. Prison guards told them he and 11 other inmates at Building 14 — NBP’s most secure facility which houses high-profile inmates — were isolated on May 23 for testing positive of the virus. He remained asymptomatic but had a lingering heart problem.
Boratong was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 for operating a P900-million “shabu tiangge” in Pasig City.
He was among the “Bilibid 19,” high-profile criminals who were discovered to be living in luxurious “kubol” at NBP’s maximum security compound in 2015.
According to Faye, she decided to speak up to dispel allegations that Boratong and other high-profile inmates were clandestinely released.
“If he was really out here alive, I would not be sharing our story. I’m putting our families at risk, but it is hard to keep silent if things like this are happening,’’ she said.
“What happened to him may also happen to all the other inmates [who died].”
Faye said the Boratongs were coordinating with the families of other high-profile prisoners who died of COVID-19 so they could file charges against the BuCor.
“I know people were thinking these inmates probably deserve what happened to them. They weren’t saints, but all we want are proper closure and explanation,” she said.
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