“It is baffling how COVID-19 was able to wipe out several drug lords with one blow.”
This was the remark of Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday as she filed a resolution seeking the appropriate Senate Committee to conduct an investigation following the deaths of nine high-profile drug inmates in the New Bilibid Prison allegedly due to novel coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier confirmed that drug convict Jaybee Sebastian, along with eight other high-profile inmates namely Benjamin Marcelo, Zhang Zhu Li, Jimmy Kinsing Hung, Francis Go, Jimmy Yang, Eugene Chua, Ryan Ong, and Amin Imam Buratong, succumbed to COVID-19. Their remains were immediately cremated at Panteon de Dasmarinas Public Cemetery in Cavite.
“Questions are being raised surrounding these high-profile deaths. For the sake of transparency, they need to be clarified,” Hontiveros said upon filing Proposed Senate Resolution No. 473.
The resolution cited that the alleged corruption inside BuCor as revealed in previous Senate investigations, “including cases of ‘Good Conduct Time Allowance for Sale’ and other schemes in which high-ranking officials of the Bureau would dispense favors to rich inmates, in exchange for monetary consideration,” casts a cloud of doubt over said deaths and seemingly secretive and immediate disposal of remains.
“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,” the Senator said.
Hontiveros also urged the investigation to look into 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,” Hontiveros concluded.