Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Wednesday defended the need for the Senate to investigate the alleged deaths of high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) allegedly due to the novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
Drilon said the Senate can take up the issue even without a formal resolution filed since the upper chamber is still investigating allegations of corruption and anomalies in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), NBP and other related agencies.
“It is still a matter pending before the Senate committee on justice and human rights chaired by Sen. (Richard) Gordon. And even without a formal resolution filed, this certainly can be investigated,” Drilon said in an ANC Headstart interview.
At least two senators, Senators Panfilo “Ping” Lacson and Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, said they find no compelling reason to investigate the issue with Lacson saying he would rather wait for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to finish their probe and present their report.
Lacson also said that being a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, he should be the first to doubt the integrity of the BuCor officials owing to the revelations revealed during the Senate hearings.
“No matter how we strongly feel about these deaths, all our misgivings and biases for or against BuCor merely play second fiddle to the official investigation,” Lacson had earlier said in a statement.
Still, Drilon said he is tempted to call for BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag’s dismissal since he has been uncooperative in providing details on the deaths of the inmates.
“I am tempted to say fire him and dismiss him, because he appears to be oblivious of the issue of public interest. We lawyers have that principle in public offices, public officials are presumed to be performing their official functions,” he said.
“However, this presumption or regularity in the performance of official duties cannot be maintained, because the people have no longer confidence in the officials of BuCor,” added Drilon.
“We learned that the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) was for sale, the ailments (of some of these inmates) are for sale so that you can get hospitalized. So this presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties is not present,” he pointed out.