Were the high-profile inmates stricken with COVID-19 isolated from other prisoners? Is the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) properly implementing health protocols?
These are some of the questions being raised by Kabayan Party-List Rep. Ron Salo on the heels of reports that at least nine prisoners of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City–most of whom were convicted drug lords–died of COVID-19.
“This is worth investigating by the House of Representatives based on the health and safety aspect alone. Kung COVID-19 infected sila, bakit hindi sila naka-isolate? (If they were COVID-19 infected, why weren’t they isolated?),” asked Salo, who is the head of the House contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET).
“All the inmates are at risk. Imagine the number of inmates in a small confined space,” he said.
The Kabayan solon said the BuCor, which is headquartered at the NBP, should have been more forthcoming with information regarding the inmates’ situation in connection with the contagion.
“It would have been more reassuring to the public, particularly the loved ones and relatives of the inmates if they announced it early on that they were suspected COVID-19 cases and that appropriate tests were conducted,” Salo said.
Jail officials should also see to it that health measures and protocols are being followed within the national penitentiary in light of the pandemic, underscored Salo.
Among those reported to have succumbed to COVID-19 was inmate Jaybee Sebastian. Sebastian, who claimed to be an NBP drug lord, served as a key witness in the House of Representatives’ 2016 inquiry on the proliferation of illegal drugs within the penal facility.
It was during a House hearing on October 10, 2016 when Sebastian categorically identified Senator Leila de Lima as the protector of drug lords at the NBP, particularly during her term as Department of Justice (DOJ) secretary.
Sebastian told House members that he gave the ex-DOJ chief P8 million in drug money.