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

(Philstar.com) - 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: May 13, 2021 - 10:43pm

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

May 13, 2021 - 10:43pm

GCQ under Heightened Restrictions, according to the Palace:

  • Only essential travel into and out of the NCR Plus shall be allowed.
  • Public transportation shall remain operational at such capacities and protocols in accordance with the Department of Transportation guidelines while the use of active transportation shall be promoted.
  • Also, indoor dine-in services in NCR Plus shall be at 20% venue or seating capacity while outdoor or al fresco dining shall be at 50% venue or seating capacity.
  • Outdoor tourist attractions in the NCR Plus, on the other hand, may be opened at 30% with strict adherence to minimum public health standards.
  • Further allowed in the NCR Plus are specialized markets of the Department of Tourism (DOT) following the minimum public health standards and implementation of protocols and restrictions as set by the DOT.
  • Religious gatherings and gatherings for necrological services, wakes, inurnment and funerals for those who died of causes other than COVID-19 in NCR Plus shall be allowed up to 10% of the venue capacity.
  • Also continued to be allowed in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions are non-contact sports in outdoor contact sports, games, scrimmages; and personal care services that allow for services not requiring mask removal, such as salons, parlors, beauty clinics, etc at 30% capacity.
  • Individuals, 18-65 years of age, can leave their places of residence in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions.
  • Meanwhile, entertainment venues, such as bars, concert halls, theaters, etc; recreational venues, such as internet cafes, billiards halls, arcades, etc; amusement parks, fairs, playgrounds, kiddie rides; indoor sports courts and venues and indoor tourist attractions; venues for meetings, conferences, exhibitions shall not be allowed in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions.
  • Interzonal travel from NCR Plus areas, except those conducted by Authorized Persons Outside Residence (APORs), shall remain prohibited in GCQ areas with heightened restrictions.
April 20, 2021 - 7:53pm

The Department of Tourism supports the construction of temporary hospitals and pandemic-related facilities in tourism sites, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat says Tuesday.

"The DOT is gratified and honored to be able to use its parks and public spaces in support of the national pandemic response," she says.

She made the comment at the groundbreaking for a Mega Field Hospital at the Burnham Green in Rizal Park in Manila.

April 18, 2021 - 9:26am

St. Luke's Medical Center hospitals in Taguig and in Quezon City are at full capacity for COVID-19 patients, SLMC says Sunday morning.

It says that aside from the COVID-19 wards and ICU units being full, there are also "several critical patients in waiting at the Emergency Room."

SLMC says those who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and who are in need of immediate treatment should consider other healthcare institutions for now. 

March 29, 2021 - 7:40am

Former president and Manila mayor Joseph "Erap" Estrada has tested positive for COVID-19.

Estrada's son, former senator JV Ejercito on Monday morning tweeted that his father was rushed to the hospital.

"Please pray for all those who are likewise fighting this virus," Ejercito says.

March 28, 2021 - 3:25pm

Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo is at full capacity for COVID-19 patients, Manila's Public Information Office announces.

The hopsital's COVID-19 ward and isolation rooms are already at 124.44% capacity while suspected COVID-19 cases are also waiting for swab test results.

The hospital will limit admission of COVID-19 patients but the emergency room will remain open.

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