Drilon says he is 'tempted' to push for BuCor chief's dismissal | Inquirer News
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As questions hound deaths of high-profile inmates in New Bilibid Prison (NBP)

Drilon says he is ‘tempted’ to push for BuCor chief’s dismissal

/ 10:08 AM July 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — As doubts continue to hound the deaths of several high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon says he is “tempted” to push for the dismissal of  Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag.

“I’m tempted to say ‘fire him, dismiss him.’ Because he appears to be oblivious on the issue of public interest, the issue that we are in a regime under the rule of law,” Drilon said in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday.

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At least nine high-profile prisoners, mostly convicted drug lords, were earlier reported to have died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and were immediately cremated.

They were among the 21 NBP inmates who died of COVID-19 since March.

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“We lawyers have that principle in public offices that [for] a public official, there is a presumption of regularity in the performance of functions,” Drilon said.

“However, that presumption cannot be applied to BuCor because of the record of past anomalies that we have unearthed in the Senate,” he added, referring to the controversial implementation of the Good Conduct and Time Allowance (GCTA), among other irregularities.

Bantag initially refused to disclose the names of the nine high-profile inmates who died reportedly from COVID-19, saying that the Data Privacy Act prohibits them to do so.

But Drilon, a former justice secretary, emphasized that the data privacy law does not cover the dead.

“The Data Privacy Act is to provide protection for the rights of living persons so that you cannot use or process the data that is given, especially for public record, to harm a person. You cannot harm a dead person. And that’s one, there is no basis for the invocation of the Data Privacy Act,” he said.

“Number 2, public interest is involved. It’s a very specific exemption, even for the living, that the Data Privacy Act will not apply where you endanger the health of the community,” he added.

“In this particular case, there is no question that COVID is a circumstance that endangers the health of our people,” he also noted.

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The senator further underscored the need for transparency, especially amid a pandemic, as to avoid public suspicion from growing.

Drilon added that Bantag’s invocation of the Data Privacy Act is also suspicious.

“The invocation of the Data Privacy Act raises suspicion that they’re covering something,” he said.

“It enhances the suspicion of our people that something is amiss, something is not right, something is being hidden. Therefore, you know, such actions should not merit his (Bantag) continued stay in the BuCor,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senator Richard Gordon said BuCor officials may be held liable for “grave misconduct” for not immediately reporting the COVID-19 deaths to the justice and health departments.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has launched a probe into the deaths of high-profile NBP inmates.

Bantag earlier said he was willing to be subjected to an investigation by the NBI “to dispel any doubt regarding the death of PDL Sebastian and the reported eight other inmates.”

The Senate is also set to conduct its own investigation on the matter.

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TAGS: Bucor, Nation, NBP, News, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon
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