Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director General Gerald Bantag did not mince words on Monday in response to rumors that high-profile inmate Jaybee Niño Sebastian was actually released from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) when he was declared a coronavirus fatality.
According to Marisol Abdurahman’s report on “24 Oras,” Bantag maintained that the BuCor can prove that high-profile NBP inmates who were declared COVID-19 fatalities indeed died from the respiratory illness.
“Definitely, kayang-kaya,” he said. “Kasi COVID talaga e. Ano’ng magagawa mo, COVID na nga ‘yon?”
“Mapapatunayan naman po iyon ng mga laboratory [test] na ginawa sa kanila. Ang swab test po na ginawa namin ay isina-submit namin sa RITM [Research Institute for Tropical Medicine],” NBP Hospital Director Dr. Henry Fabro added.
GMA News received word from people close to Sebastian’s kin that his wife does not believe that he truly died of COVID-19.
“‘Wag silang magsasalita ng gano’n. Magsasalita ng negative, p— ina. Sa totoo lang, p— ina,” Bantag said in response.
“Ang question dito, national security na, national health pa, magsasalitang pinatakas? Gago pala ‘yan e. Dahil sabi nila, baka pinatakas. O, magharap kayo sa’kin ng buhay na tao at tingnan natin kung siya ba ‘yon o hindi,” he added.
His remains were cremated at the Panteon de Dasmariñas in Cavite.
“Hindi naman alam na high-profile ‘yung dinala dito. Nagtaka lang kami kasi no’ng gabi na dinala siya dito ng 9:22 p.m., maraming kasamang mga pulis,” crematorium department head Liezl Camaganacan said.
Sebastian’s death certificate indicates that he died of acute myocardial infarction or heart attack as a complication of COVID-19.
“‘Yung document na binigay nila, Jaybee talaga, Jaybee Sebastian. Hindi po namin natingnan ‘yung katawan niya dahil naka-cadaver bag siya at saka SOP po sa’min kapag po COVID, hindi na po namin bubuksan, diretso na po sa machine ‘yun,” Camaganacan explained.
The BuCor has refused to confirm to the media if the death certificate belonged to Sebastian, the high-profile inmate.
“Hindi natin kino-confirm na si Jaybee Sebastian ‘yon. Dahil sa Data Privacy Act ay restrained tayo na magsalita dahil nga protocol na ng DOH ‘yan,” Bantag said.
However, the BuCor has told the Department of Justice that Sebastian indeed died of COVID-19.
The crematorium also has a list of 29 persons deprived of liberty, including Sebastian, who have been cremated since May.
All names on the list were confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases.
Bantag said that some of them were high-profile Chinese and Filipino drug lords.
Sebastian was convicted of kidnap for ransom and carnapping but remained influential inside the NBP as a gang leader.
In October 2016, he gained notoriety anew after testifying on the illegal drug trade inside the NBP and insisting that Senator Leila De Lima was a “protector” of drug operations there, which she denied.
Out of the 339 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Bilibid, 45 have died.
The BuCor said it continues efforts to combat the virus, especially with over 29,000 inmates currently detained at the NBP.
Bantag also said the BuCor welcomes any probe into the high-profile inmates’ deaths. — Julia Mari Ornedo/BM, GMA News