BuCor chief's refusal to confirm inmates' death enhances suspicion: Drilon

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 22 2020 01:26 PM | Updated as of Jul 22 2020 01:36 PM

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MANILA - Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag should not keep his post anymore after initially refusing to confirm the death of high-profile inmates at the national penitentiary that fueled suspicion of irregularity, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Wednesday.

Bantag earlier refused to confirm reports about the death of Jaybee Sebastian, a key witness in the Bilibid drug trade, and other inmates, citing the Data Privacy Act.

He later said Sebastian's remains were cremated within 12 hours since his death, following protocol on COVID-related deaths.

"Nobody is taking his word for it. It enhances the suspicion of our people that something is amiss, something is not right, something is being hidden. Therefore, such action should not merit his continued stay in the BuCor," Drilon told ANC.

"The fact is, there could have been steps taken consistent with the rules on COVID, but at the same time, convincing the people that nothing was irregular. The confidence of the people in BuCor as an institution is all-shut at this point."

The Data Privacy Act cannot be applied to the inmates as it only provides for the protection of living persons, Drilon said.

The bureau should be investigated, he added.

"Public officials are presumed to be performing their official functions. However, that presumption cannot be applied to BuCor because of the record of past anomalies we have unearthed in the Senate," Drilon said.

"Even without any formal resolution filed, this certainly can be investigated because it is part of the effort to examine the procedure in the BuCor that would appear to be inconsistent with what is expected of a government official."

Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said he would file a resolution to look into the inmates' deaths.