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Sotto files resolution seeking Senate probe on Bilibid deaths due to COVID-19

Senate President Vicente Sotto on Monday filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry on the death and cremation of New Bilibid Prison inmates who supposedly tested positive for COVID-19.

In filing Senate Resolution 468, Sotto cited information from Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga that the remains of the deceased have not been subjected to autopsies and that the body bags had not been opened anymore before these were cremated at the Panteon de Dasmariñas.

Sotto also said a ranking police official "who was aware" of the alleged COVID-19 fatalities has speculated that the bodies could have just been swapped with the cadavers of other inmates.

"Due to unclear, inaccurate, and unverified reports, speculations are now being made as to whether or not these NBP inmates actually died due to COVID-19," the resolution read.

Sotto earlier told reporters that there were "too many unanswered questions." He said the hearing on the issue can be expected after the Senate resumes session next week.

Meanwhile, former Philippine National Police chief Senator Panfilo Lacson has yet to be convinced that there has been a foul play in the deaths of the Bilibid inmates.

Senator Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa, also a former chief of the PNP and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), said there is no basis yet to call for a probe.

BuCor director general Gerald Bantag—who said he could not disclose the names of the deceased, pursuant to the Data Privacy Act—appeared before the Department of Justice on Monday to explain the reported deaths of high-profile inmates at Bilibid due to COVID-19.

Nineteen inmates who tested positive for COVID-19 from the national penitentiary have already died, according to BuCor spokesperson Colonel Gabriel Chaclag. He said Bilibid has recorded a total of 343 infected cases, as of July 20.—AOL, GMA News