Privacy commissioner: Up to DOJ, BuCor to confirm Jaybee Sebastian's death due to COVID-19
This undated file photo shows high-profile convict Jaybee Sebastian, who testified in Congress against Sen. Leila de Lima during the 2016 probe on the illegal drug trade in the New Bilibid Prison. The NBP reported that Sebastian died of acute myocardial infarction related to COVID-19 at the NBP Hospital on Friday.

Privacy commissioner: Up to DOJ, BuCor to confirm Jaybee Sebastian's death due to COVID-19

( - July 20, 2020 - 11:46am

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 3:20 p.m.) — Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro said it is up to the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Corrections to confirm the death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian due to COVID-19.

In an interview with radio dzBB on Monday, Liboro, chair of the National Privacy Commission, said the Data Privacy Act covers everyone, including inmates.

But confirming the death of a person due to the novel coronavirus will be up to discretion of government authority, he said.

“We have to leave it to the controller, in which case the Bureau of Corrections or DOJ as controller of this information,” Liboro explained in a mix of English and Filipino. He added that these government agencies have their own policies on upholding public interest.

In a statement, however, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said the bureau should disclose the causes of deaths at the New Bilibid Prison, saying these are not covered by the Data Privacy Act.

"In fact, upon any person's death, there is a requirement to execute a death certificate which is a public document," Drilon said.

"Disclosing information about a prisoner’s death is not a protected information under the Data Privacy Law, " Drilon said.

"The fact that a person is dead is not contemplated by the law."

On Sunday, media reported that on deaths of nine high-profile inmates, including convicted kidnapper Sebastian, who is also accused of being a drug lord. According to media reports, the death certificate showed that Sebastian was 40 when he died of acute myocardial infarction, related to COVID-19 at the New Bilibid Prison Hospital last week.

His body was not autopsied and was cremated on Saturday.

BuCor Director General Gerard Bantag confirmed deaths among inmates due to COVID-19, but invoked the Data Privacy Act from confirming the identities of those who passed away.

Liboro said that the Data Privacy Act covers anyone, including inmates. But during this time of pandemic, Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern may also cover this incident.

The privacy commissioner said journalists may invoke RA 11332 in confirming Sebastian’s death, but it will still be up to the controller of information whether to disclose the data.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said he summoned Bantag to his office on Monday to shed light on the matter.

Guevarra said they will discuss alleged deaths of high-profile inmates and protocols in place whenever death occurs in Bilibid. Asked if BuCor can invoke data privacy act in refusing to identify the inmates who died, Guevarra added: “We actually need not mention any names. We’re interested in what’s happening out there (or in there).”  — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Ghio Ong

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: January 13, 2021 - 9:38pm

Follow this thread for updates on COVID-19 risk levels, safety measures, and data from Metro Manila's local government units.

Photo: The STAR/Michael Varcas

January 13, 2021 - 9:38pm

The Quezon City government says it is closely monitoring the case of a resident who trested positive for the new COVID-19 variant, which was first detected in the United Kingdom.

City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit says they are doing everything they can to trace and isolate, following the arrival of the patient from Dubai last January 7.

“We have to remain cautious and  vigilant to avert the spread of this new variant. What is important is we take care of the resident, and make sure we don’t sow panic in the community,” Mayor Joy Belmonte says.

January 12, 2021 - 4:27pm

Manila prohibits street parties, stage shows, parades, palarong kalye and other similar activities that will draw crowd in the community in Pandacan and Tondo areas for the nnual Feast Day of Sto. Nino on January 16 to 17.

In Executive Order 2, Mayor Isko Moreno says such activities during fiesta regulation, if not regulated, can be an easy medium of COVID-19 spread and transmission.

Selling of liquor and other alcoholic beverages within Pandacan and Tondo will also be banned on the same dates.

January 11, 2021 - 7:49am

Pasig City has ordered 400,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, Mayor Vico Sotto announces.

He adds, though, that "actual quantity and date of delivery will depend on several factors."

"We'll buy from others too as opportunities arise," he also says.

January 5, 2021 - 3:30pm

The government of Quezon City is finalizing discussions for purchasing an initial batch of 750,000 does of COVID-19 vaccines.

Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte says the procurement will be through a tripartite agreement between the national government, local government unit and the pharmaceutical company.

"The LGU is not authorized to procure... The pharmaceutical company allocates what it can to LGUs that signify intent, with the national government procuring in behalf of the LGU," Belmonte says. —  The STAR/Janvic Mateo

December 22, 2020 - 6:34pm

Nine cities in Metro Manila have seen an increase in their average daily new COVID-19 cases, according to the University of the Philippines' OCTA Research team.

As infection rate in the capital region went up to 1.15, the following cities saw a rise in daily cases: Quezon City, Makati, San Juan, Marikina, Malabon, Taguig, Navotas, Valenzuela and Caloocan.

"Based on the available data, the period of the declining trend in cases observed in the NCR in the pas few months has now ended. The trend has been reversed with significant positive growth in new cases observed in the region," UP-OCTA Research says. — report from ONE News

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