NBI probes alleged COVID-19 deaths of high-profile inmates inside Bilibid
Marje Pelayo • July 21, 2020 • 304
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday (July 20) ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the alleged deaths from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) of at least nine persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) including high-profile inmates at the National Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City.
In a statement issued by the DOJ, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Gerald Bantag confirmed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra in a meeting earlier in the day that a total of 21 PDLs died of COVID-19 since March of this year.
Bantag, however, assured Guevarra that standard protocols are being followed in the event of a death of an inmate from COVID-19 including the mandatory cremation within 12 hours to contain the spread of the virus.
He also assured that health conditions within the penitentiary are under control and only five PDLs are in isolation at the Bureau’s largest isolation facility, ‘Site Harry.’
There were reports that high-profile inmates have died of COVID-19 and were cremated including drug lord Jaybee Sebastian who is set to testify in the illegal drug case against detained Senator Leila De Lima.
Bantag didn’t reveal details of what transpired in his meeting with Guevarra but he said the Bureau welcomes an independent investigation on the matter.
DOJ Undersecretary Mark Perete later in the afternoon confirmed that indeed high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastion has died and has been cremated.
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III filed a resolution seeking to probe the deaths of the PDLs as there are ‘too many unanswered questions’ as regards the case including a report on the autopsy and why the Bureau did not inform the DOJ right away.
Before the day ended, the DOJ issued an authority to the NBI to conduct an investigation on the reported deaths of Sebastian and eight other convicts allegedly of COVID-19 and, “if evidence warrants, to file appropriate charges against all persons involved and found responsible for any unlawful act” in connection with the case.
Reacting to BuCor’s position of not disclosing the names of the concerned high-profile inmates citing privacy issues, Privacy Commissioner Raymond Liboro, on the other hand, stressed that the Data Privacy Act “is not a cloak for denying the public’s right to know.”
He said high-profile inmates like Sebastian had become public figures on account of their previous association with particular national issues in the past.
“There is a justified public interest to release information like details surrounding the deaths from COVID-19 of these high-profile inmates, especially when the personal information being sought is linked to issues already on the minds of the public,” Liboro said.
For its part, Malacañang through Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque said it is letting Secretary Guevarra carry out the investigation on the matter. —MNP (with inputs from Dante Amento / Rosalie Coz / Rey Pelayo)
MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) is now requiring facility-based isolation for confirmed asymptomatic and mild coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases through IATF Resolution 74.
The new policy however, exempts patients who are considered vulnerable or having comorbidities and their home meets the conditions specified in the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Joint Administrative Order 2020-0001.
Likewise, another exception is when the Ligtas COVID-19 Centers within the region are fully occupied and the local government unit does not have sufficient isolation facilities.
MANILA, Philippines — Iloilo City has been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) effective September 25 until October 9 due to the increasing number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the city.
According to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque the new measure is based on the issued Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) Resolution 74 which also requires facility-based isolation for confirmed asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 cases.
However, the resolution exempts patients who are considered vulnerable or having comorbidities as confirmed by the local health officer.
Another exception would be when the Ligtas COVID-19 Centers within the region are fully occupied and the local government unit does not have sufficient isolation facilities.
On Tuesday (September 22), 33 employees of the Iloilo City Hall tested positive for COVID-19 prompting the three-day temporary closure of the establishment beginning Wednesday (September 23) as declared by Mayor Jerry Treñas in Executive Order No. 215-A.
Prior to that, 13 barangays in the city were placed under total lockdown due to the increase in community transmission of COVID-19.
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Thursday said it will do away with deadlines and instead continue to hire contact tracers until their target of at least 50,000 is reached.
In a statement, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said the agency’s provincial and city field offices will continue to accept applications until the slots allocated to them have been filled up.
The department earlier announced that the submission of applications for contact tracers is only until Sept. 23.
“What’s important to us is to fill up the slots and recruit the most number of Contact Tracers as provided in the Bayanihan 2 law so those who meet the deadline will immediately be processed but we will continue to accept applications until we have met our targets,” he said.
Malaya said that some 10,000 individuals have already applied in Metro Manila but many have incomplete documents so they are giving more time for them to complete the requirements on a first come, first served basis.
“As soon as they are deemed qualified by the selection board, they will be hired, trained, and deployed to the various LGUs,” he added.
The DILG official said the first batch of DILG-hired contact tracers will be deployed to the local government units by first week of October.
The department earlier said that local and overseas Filipino workers whose service have been recently terminated or their employment contracts were not renewed amid the pandemic will be given priority in the hiring process.
To qualify, the applicant must have a Bachelor’s degree or college level in an allied medical course or criminology course.
Aspirants must also be skilled in data gathering and have assisted in research and documentation; able to interview COVID-19 cases and close contacts in order to gather data; possess the ability to advocate public health education messages; and have investigative capability.
“While our first preference is college graduates or college level of allied medical courses or criminology, we are also open to graduates or college level of any course. So, we urge them to apply and help the country defeat COVID-19,” he said. Malaya said applicants are required to submit an application letter, Personal Data Sheet, National Bureau of Investigation clearance, diploma or transcript of record, and drug test result to the nearest DILG provincial or city field office.
Contact tracers will earn a minimum of P18,784 per month in a contract of service status.
Their responsibilities include conducting interviews, profiling, and perform an initial public health risk assessment of COVID-19 cases and their identified close contacts; refer the close contacts to isolation facilities; conduct enhanced contact tracing in collaboration with other agencies and private sectors; conduct daily monitoring of close and general contacts for at least 14 days, and perform such other tasks in relation to the COVID response.
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