It is up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) or the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to confirm if convicted drug lord Jaybee Sebastian indeed perished from COVID-19 while incarcerated, according to Chairman Raymund Liboro of the National Privacy Commission (NPC).
"We have to leave it to the controller which, in this case, the Bureau of Corrections or the DOJ, bilang controller ng information na ito," Liboro told Dobol B sa News TV in an interview on Monday.
"Dahil ang controller ang may tangan ng record na iyan ay ang Department of Justice at ang Bureau of Corrections, sila ang merong polisiya dito based on their mandate, based on their policy in upholding public interest," he said.
Liboro said even prisoners like Sebastian, who has testified against detained Senator Leila de Lima in connection with her alleged links to the illegal drug trade, are covered by the Data Privacy Act.
"Sakop po iyan at sakop din itong prisoners. Lahat tayo ay sakop dito," he said of the law.
Liboro, however, noted that a "thin line" exists between the Data Privacy Act and another law, Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern.
"Dalawang batas po ang nago-operate sa sitwasyong ito," Liboro said on the issue regarding the confirmation of Sebastian's death.
He said journalists seeking confirmation of Sebastian's death from COVID-19 may invoke the latter, but it will be up to the controller of the information whether or not to share the information.
Persons with "legitimate interests," like victims or relatives of the deceased, can access the information.
"Kung ikaw ay biktima, may concern ka doon, ang tawag namin may legitimate interest kang malaman iyon... maaari kang tumungo sa BuCor at tanungin mo sa kanila," he said.
Asked on whether these victims or relatives of the deceased can share the information to a journalist, Liboro said, "Walang pumipigil sa inyo doon."
An earlier report, citing a death certificate, said a 40-year-old man named Jaybee Niño Sebastian had died on Saturday at the New Bilibid Prisons Hospital. The cause of death as listed on the death certificate is acute myocardial infarction as a complication of COVID-19.
No autopsy was done on the body, which was reportedly cremated in a crematorium in Cavite.
At a hearing at the House of Representatives in October 2016 on the alleged proliferation of illegal drugs inside the NBP, an inmate named Jaybee Niño Sebastian tagged de Lima as a protector of illegal drug operations in the facility.
A critic of the Duterte administration, de Lima denied the allegation, saying Sebastian was "pressured" by authorities to pin her down.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday said he has summoned Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag to his office on Monday regarding the matter. —KBK, GMA News