Gordon seeks mandatory reporting on prison deaths

Published December 9, 2021, 10:38 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Richard Gordon on Thursday pushed for the passage of the measure mandating law enforcers to provide accurate reporting of deaths and illnesses of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and detained children in conflict with the law (CICL).

Gordon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, has filed Senate Bill No. 1771 or the proposed “Death in Custody Reporting” bill following the recent death of Jonel Nuezca, a high-profile inmate, last week.

Nuezca, a former policeman, reportedly died while inside the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) last Nov. 30. He was convicted of murder last August for killing his neighbors whom he had a longstanding dispute.

His burial, however, was kept from the public and the media, prompting human rights groups to be suspicious of Nuezca’s case.

“The late reporting of these deaths, suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths and the identity of these high-profile inmates shocked the nation and questions regarding the truthfulness and veracity of these reports regarding the circumstances of the deaths of the inmates have been questioned,” Gordon said.

“The Filipino people have the right to know what really happened with these inmates. The people felt cheated. Justice was cheated. We cannot let this happen again,” he added.

Gordon, who is seeking re-election, noted that only one death inside the NBP was inside the NBP was attributed to COVID-19 in April 2020. Months later, at least nine (9) high-profile inmates at the national penitentiary purportedly died due to COVID-19.

Among those who have been reported to have died were Jaybee Sebastian, who was a key witness in the illegal drug charges the government filed against Sen. Leila de Lima.

Under the bill, Gordon seeks the monthly filing of reports of PDLs or CICLs who are convicted of a heinous crime or crimes punishable by reclusion perpetua to the Departments of Justice (DOJ), Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Supreme Court; and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

The bill also seeks an automatic motu propio investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should the death of a PDL or CICL is due to mysterious circumstances.

Gordon said authorities who would fail to report would face a six to 12-year imprisonment, on top of a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1-million.

In case of false reporting or if a jail personnel is found guilty of letting a PDL or CICL escape, he or she would face an equivalent sentence appropriated to the prisoner and be ordered to pay fines ranging from P500,000 to P5-million.