Proof of death

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

The New Bilibid Prisons is back in the news. A report came out that Jaybee Sebastian, the drug lord who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima a few years ago, has died. He allegedly died due to COVID-19 so according to BuCor Director Gerald Bantag his body was cremated within twelve hours according to the guidelines regarding those who die due to the virus. But speculations immediately arose due to Bantag's refusal to release the names of those who have died since March, citing the Data Privacy Act (DPA). Why would you not release the names of dead high-profile drug inmates to the public? How is releasing the name of a dead man a security issue or threat of any kind?

Bantag's statement prompted Privacy Commissioner Raymond Liboro to state that "the DPA was not a cloak for denying the public’s right to know. There is a justified public interest to release information like details surrounding the deaths from COVID-19 of these high-profile inmates, especially when the personal information being sought is linked to issues already on the minds of the public". Everyone knows Sebastian's testimony against de Lima. Has anyone else who testified against the senator died?

So now, it has become inevitable for many to think some kind of controversy may be happening in the NBP, which is by no means farfetched. Senate President Sotto is asking if Sebastian really died because there is no way to identify his body now that it has been cremated. Fingerprints are out of the question. DNA can be obtained from the ashes but the process is more complex. Speculations that some sort of body-switching took place for him to earn his freedom has been going around. Inmates temporarily leaving the NBP has happened before. One recalls the Tony Leviste trips outside the NBP. Some even say this is  Sebastian's reward for testifying against de Lima. No one will look for a dead man, something that earned the ire of Bantag who challenged anyone to provide evidence of a dead inmate still walking amongst us. 

DOJ Sec. Guevarra has already ordered the NBI to investigate these NBP deaths. The Senate also wants to investigate. Sotto says they cannot pass it up. Of course, Sen. Dela Rosa has to say "COVID-19 doesn't exclude anyone". Agreed. So why all the secrecy? I hope the investigation exposes the truth. If they died because of the virus, then some form of proof must be shown, not just some document originating from the NBP. The names of the dead must be released for transparency. Bantag should not have withheld the names. This is the problem the law is interpreted differently, such as the Data Privacy Act. This is the problem when the police themselves misinterpret it. It turns out that Bantag did not know the law. This is also the reason why many are wary of the Anti-Terrorist Act. Law enforcers may interpret it differently resulting in one's immediate imprisonment. Does anyone want that?



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