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Remulla, NBI meet over rap vs cops in suspicious Bilibid deaths blamed on COVID

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Remulla, NBI meet over rap vs cops in suspicious Bilibid deaths blamed on COVID
Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla speaks in front of of DOJ employees during his first flag ceremony as justice secretary on July 4, 2022. In his speech Remulla has identified three attached agencies of the department that need their help.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:55 p.m.) — On his first official day in office, Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla made true on his statement to focus on the Bureau of Corrections and took a closer look at a probe into the suspicious deaths of New Bilibid Prison inmates, among them high-profile drug convicts.

Lawyer Nico Clavano, from the Office of the Justice Secretary, said Remulla met with National Bureau of Investigation Deputy Director Medardo De Lemos, who has been designated as officer-in-charge of the bureau.

"The issue was discussed and SOJ wanted to validate the facts already presented but would like to inquire more into the incident," Clavano said.

He asked for more time to gather more information into the issue but stressed that Remulla has expressed "stern desire to hold all those involved accountable."

At his first flag ceremony at the DOJ, Remulla identified BuCor as one of the three attached agencies that "need help." The other two are the Land Registration Authority and the Bureau of Immigration.

BuCor deaths

In July 2020, months into the pandemic, the Bureau of Corrections reported the deaths of 22 inmates, inlcuding nine high-profile convicts such as Jaybee Sebastian — one of the witnesses in the case against detained Sen. Leila De Lima — due to COVID-19.

Then-NBI Officer-in-Charge Eric Distor said that the bureau filed eight murder complaints against 22 members of the National Capital Region Police Office over the suspicious deaths of inmates.

Curiously, no official of the BuCor, which supervises Bilibid, has been named in the complaint.

Clavano said the DOJ has yet to decide whether they will order a reinvestigation or whether the preliminary probe into the NBI complaint will be be put on hold while pending further discussions.

The complaint

The NBI, in a separate release, confirmed their filing of eight counts of murder against 22 NCRPO personnel before the DOJ over the deaths of eight high-profile inmates. Among those facing raps are PMaj. Lymel John Hayahay Pasquin, PSSg. Rannel Tanajura Gadiano and PSSg. Christian Aragon Mercarsos.

The complaint stemmed from the directive of former Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to look into the deaths of Sebastian and eight other high-profile convicts due to COVID.

The bureau said it found that the eight Persons Deprived of Liberty were assigned at Site Harry during their supposed infection with COVID-19, but "immediately after the segregation and transfer to 'isolation room,' victims died."

The NBI said they found that the eight PDLs, wo are all convicts of drug cases, "gradually disappeared from Building 4" after they were supposedly moved to the isolation room.

"This is inconsistent with the allegations of the NCRPO personnel who all purported that they administered nursing intervention and were all on-alert when the PDLs were on 'emergency' situation," the bureau also said.

But the NBI said that a "close examination of the medical profile" of the eight victims showed they did not exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms before they died."

Subjects took advantage of the fact that victims were confined at Building 4, Site Harry, an NCRPO-managed isolation area, due to COVID-19 infection. They availed the situation that in case of COVID-19 cases, cadavers should immediately be cremated. Cremation, for this case, was the final act to consummate and effectively cover-up the scheme to kill the victims," the NBI said.

A full copy of the complaint has yet to be made public as of this story's posting.

Investigation into Sebastian's death meanwhile showed that he died of natural causes.

BOYING REMULLA

BUREAU OF CORRECTIONS

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

NATIONAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

NEW BILIBID PRISON

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