Jaybee Sebastian as he appears during one of several House hearings before.
MANILA — Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra has summoned Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag and the latter is expected to explain to him today, Monday (20 July 2020) on the reported high-profile coronavirus deaths inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).
“I have summoned BuCor DG (Director General) Bantag to my office tomorrow (today, Monday). We’ll find out,” Guevarra said in a text message to reporters when asked about the deaths.
Bantag also sent out his own text messages telling reporters that while there were convicts who have died due to COVID-19, the Data Privacy Act “prohibits” the BuCor from naming them in public.
And this effectively and conveniently excuses Bantag from confirming whether high-profile convict Jaybee Sebastian had really died or not of the coronavirus disease inside the Bilibid, along with at least 8 other prisoners, as reported by media on Sunday morning.
Ironically, the reported deaths come just a week after the DOJ said NBP and BuCor were COVID-free and that beats the 14-day incubation period of the virus as claimed by health experts.
Sebastian is one of the chief accusers of detained Senator Leila de Lima in an October 2016 House hearing where he tagged De Lima as an alleged protector of illegal drug operations at the national penitentiary when she was DOJ secretary.
But De Lima’s defense team denied Sebastian’s accusation saying the latter may have been “pressured” by authorities to accuse her of drug-related crimes.
Reports have it that Sebastian died last Saturday due to COVID-19 after he was allegedly taken to Site Harry, which is a COVID-19 facility inside the New Bilibid Prison, after showing symptoms of the virus.
An autopsy was never conducted reports said adding it was immediately cremated at around 9 in the evening at a crematorium in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Aside from being a key witness in the illegal drug trade, Sebastian, was convicted of kidnapping-for-ransom and carjacking in 2009.
Last Wednesday, (15 July 2020), the DOJ reported that out of 343 COVID-19 cases at the NBP and the Correctional Institution for Women, a total of 18 inmates died and 323 have recovered.
Pressed to confirm whether there were third-party eyewitnesses when an inmate is cremated to confirm the inmate’s identity – to avoid speculation that the death is a coverup to let the inmate escape – Guevarra only said he would ask Bantag to explain all BuCor protocols during the meeting.
“We are looking at several theories. I expect that there are existing protocols whenever deaths occur inside the prisons,” he added.
From Site Harry, Sebastian’s body was accordingly placed inside a cadaver bag and then brought to the Panteon de Dasmariñas, a public cemetery in Dasmariñas City, Cavite that offers cremation, by the BuCor at around 9:22 p.m. on Saturday and was cremated, said cemetery administrator Liezl Camaganacan.