Palace leaves probe on deaths of high-profile inmates to DOJ

Palace leaves probe on deaths of high-profile inmates to DOJ

New Bilibid Prison (File photo)

MANILA – Malacañang on Monday said it will leave the investigation on the death of high-profile inmates, including Jaybee Sebastian, to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark following reports that Sebastian died due to acute myocardial infarction related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

However, other reports claimed Sebastian was executed because he refused to stop running his illegal drug trade from within the prison.

“Nagsimula na po ng imbestigasyon ang Secretary of Justice. Pinauubaya na po ng Palasyo kay Secretary Meynard Guevarra ang imbestigasyon na ito (Investigation being conducted by the Secretary of Justice has begun. The Palace will leave it to Secretary Meynard Guevarra),” he said in a virtual Palace briefing.

Sebastian, a convicted kidnapper, and carnapper, was a witness and co-accused in one of the drug charges filed against detained Senator Leila de Lima before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court (RTC).

He previously tagged Senator Leila de Lima as protector of the drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City during her term as Justice Secretary.

Guevarra has summoned Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag to report on the death of Sebastian and eight other high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.

Citing the Data Privacy Act, Bantag said the law “prohibits” the BuCor from naming them in public.

The inmates are among the 66 occupants of Building 14, the most highly secured facility within Bilibid’s Maximum Security Compound.

To prevent more inmates from catching Covid-19, Roque assured that all inmates who tested positive for the disease are immediately transferred to an isolation facility.

“Meron pong itinayong mga isolation facilities hindi lang po sa mga lokal na kulungan kundi sa Muntinlupa at binigayan pa nga ito ng tulong ng ilang mga dayuhan at saka ng organisasyon tulad ng [International Committee of the Red Cross] (We have put up isolation facilities not just in local jails but also in Muntinlupa and we were given help by foreigners and organizations like the ICRC),” he said.

Earlier, Bantag said the BuCor is doing its best to contain Covid-19 among inmates given the current level of congestion of facilities in the country.

Besides conducting “quick” identification, isolation, and treatment of suspected Covid-19 cases, he said the bureau has also partnered with other government agencies, international organizations, and non-government organizations to strengthen its drive against the health crisis.

As of July 18, there have been 15 inmates who died of Covid-19 at the NBP. (PNA)

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