BuCor welcomes senate inquiry into deaths of NBP inmates

Published November 13, 2019, 5:38 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Joseph Almer Pedrajas 

Bureau of Corrections chief Director General Gerald Bantag has welcomed the resolution filed by Sen. Leila de Lima which seeks a Senate inquiry into the deaths of inmates at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

Bureau of Corrections (MANILA BULLETIN)

“Maganda ‘yang fi-nile ng ating senador para malaman ang katotohanan, di ba?” he told reporters in an ambush interview during a conference on prison health in Makati City Wednesday.

“Kaya nga kami open sa media, katulad ng ino-open kayo doon, para makita nyo, wala naman tayo tinatago doon. Okay lang yon,” he added.
De Lima, former justice secretary, filed Senate Resolution No. 208, urging the appropriate Senate committee to thoroughly investigate the deaths of at least 29 Bilibid inmates within a 17-day period in October allegedly due to lack of basic necessities and proper medical treatment.

“These intolerable deaths are a ‘grisly record’ that cannot be set aside, but rather, deserves to be looked into and addressed with the help of an independent and compassionate eye of the Senate,” she said.

In a recent interview with The Manila Bulletin, former BuCor spokesperson Maj. Wena Dalagan said that lack of medical staff and the current condition of the inmates at the NBP might have caused the inmates’ deaths, which also resulted in the national penitentiary to record the highest number of deaths among BuCor’s operating units.

Based on BuCor records, the agency recorded some 507 deaths from January to September 2019. About 70 percent or 329 deaths were from the NBP.

Dalagan said that, more medical staff and improvement of the inmates’ living condition are among the “main concerns of the BuCor as of the moment.”

Henry Fabro, NBP Hospital chief, disclosed that NBP’s maximum security compound only has four to five doctors for their 18,000 inmates. The BuCor chief stressed, the number of doctors is insufficient.

“Kaya ito mag-uusap kami ni Sec. [Francisco] Duque ng DOH [Department of Health] para i-address yung concern na ‘yan,” Bantag said.

According to Bantag, arthritis, tuberculosis (TB) and hypertension are the prevalent diseases inside the NBP. Fabro, meanwhile, added that myocardial infraction or heart attack was the “number one cause of death” of the inmates.

Bantag said that he was yet to confirm if suicide and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were also the other causes of deaths of the inmates.

“Ang concern talaga natin dito yung mga senior citizen natin. Syempre may mga sickly na doon,” he said.

Fabro also bared that the NBP is now in “critical condition,” with regards to number of inmates’ deaths, as far as “a universally accepted computation of persons deprived with liberty (PDL) worldwide” is concerned.

“We compute the percentage. And right now, we are [in] critical condition. The universally accepted number would be 0.20, right now we are at 0.50,” Fabro said.

The hospital chief said that, based on the percentage of deaths among the inmates inside the penitentiary, the NBP is recording at least one death a day.

“In actual number, siguro, mga once every day [ang death]. The basic problem in the short stay that we had in the NBP, I think would be the hospital, because it is poorly equipped,” he explained.