Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday said the officials of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) could face administrative cases related to the deaths of New Bilibid Prison inmates who supposedly got infected with COVID-19.
"Sa akin, grave misconduct lalabas 'yan at the very least. You have a duty to reform and you did not do it well. You did it in a very negligent way so it is gross negligence—a negligence so gross so as to amount to bad faith," Gordon told reporters in a virtual interview.
"It's absolute misconduct in allowing prisoners to die without giving proper treatment. Violating the proper protocols of the Department of Health that anybody with COVID must be brought to a COVID hospital, or at least to a separate area in the hospital for COVID treatment," he added.
Gordon said BuCor chief Gerald Bantag, who has command responsibility, should have at least informed the Department of Justice and Department of Health when the inmates—especially the high-profile ones—tested positive for the virus.
"Dapat kung nag-report sila kaagad may sakit ito o mamamatay na ito, eh babantayan na 'yan diba... Bakit itinago?" he said. "Ilalabas nila kung kailan patay na at nasunog na? Eh nakakaduda 'yun. Hindi tama 'yun."
The senator echoed Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon's position that the Data Privacy Act could not be applied to persons deprived of liberty.
"Walang Privacy Act sa preso... the moment that you are in jail, detention, or convicted your rights are diminished," Gordon said.
The BuCor officials should have been circumspect in documenting the deaths of the inmates, he added.
Moreover, Gordon urged President Rodrigo Duterte to speak on the issue.
"Gusto ko rin marinig ang sasabihin ng Presidente natin dahil dapat ang Presidente magsalita siya diyan, ipatawag niya kaagad 'yan. Hindi puwedeng pagtatakpan na naman natin na katulad ng ibang opisyal na nakakalusot dahil 'I'll back him up,'" he said.
"Hindi dapat puwede sabihing I'll back him up diyan dahil talagang ito eh magagalit na talaga ang tao diyan," he added.
Gordon said his Blue Ribbon and justice committees were ready to hold inquiries on the matter once the resolution filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III is referred. Family members of the inmates who died may be invited, according to the senator.
While acknowledging that previous hearings have unearthed a lot of controversies in the BuCor, Senator Panfilo Lacson said that he would rather wait for the National Bureau of Investigation's official report to come out.
"No matter how we strongly feel about these deaths, all our misgivings and biases for or against Bucor merely play second fiddle to the official investigation," Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, said in a separate statement. -NB, GMA News