MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the deaths of nine inmates in the New Bilibid Prison after allegedly testing positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In filing Senate Resolution No. 473, Hontiveros said the deaths of these high-profile inmates must be looked into following questions surrounding their demise.
“It is baffling how COVID-19 was able to wipe out several drug lords with one blow,” she said in a statement.
“For the sake of transparency, they need to be clarified,” she added.
Hontiveros pointed out that previous Senate investigation on the alleged corruption inside BuCor have revealed “schemes in which high-ranking officials of the bureau would dispense favors to rich inmates in exchange for monetary consideration.”
She said these schemes and the immediate disposal of the remains cast a cloud of doubt over the reported deaths of the inmates.
“The lack of reliable information on the deaths of the inmates, the track record of some officials within the BuCor, and the improbability of the fatality rate, creates enough doubt in the mind of a reasonable person on the truthfulness of these deaths,” Hontiveros said,
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier confirmed that a number of inmates, nine of whom were high-profile, in the New Bilibid Prisons have succumbed to COVID-19.
BuCor chief Gerald Bantag, however, said he cannot disclose the names of these individuals pursuant to the Data Privacy Act.
The Department of Justice has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to delve into the issue.
Meanwhile, Hontiveros’ resolution also sought to investigate the health and sanitary conditions in penal institutions “so that the abnormally high number of COVID-19 fatalities might be addressed.”
“By conducting this investigation, we may be able to put an end to speculation and improve our response to the pandemic within our penal institutions,” she added.
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