BuCor chief willing to step down over deaths of high-profile inmates
The chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Thursday said he is willing to step down from his post after alleged controversial death of nine high-profile inmates which is according the national penitentiary said were due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
In a radio interview, BuCor chief Gerald Bantag said he can be removed if officials don’t trust him due to the issue.
If they don’t have trust (with) me… they should remove me. I’m willing since (the situation) here gives headache,” Bantag said.
He made the statement after some senators questioned the death of the high profile inmates.
However, Bantag asked the senators why they were more focused on the nine inmates and not on the 21 who died.
“The number of deaths due to COVID-19 is 21. Now, why are they only questioning the nine high-profile?... Why is their interest only focused on the nine high-profile PDLs (persons deprived of liberty)? Are they protectors?” he asked.
Bantag said they reported the incident to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Department of Health (DOH). The only reason they are not identifying the inmates that succumbed to the virus is to save their family from discrimination.
When told that relatives of inmates doubt they died from COVID-19, Bantag said he is not a “satan” to ask the virus to execute them.
“Our COVID (cases) are 258… recoveries are 230. (If I execute them) they should all be dead… Am I (a) satan to tell COVID to kill them all?” he said.
“The COVID chooses no one,” he added.
Bantag said they were able to contact and inform the relatives of the 21 dead inmates.
He also said some hospitals refuse to accept sick inmates. They were only able to tap the Philippine General Hospital due to the help of Senator Bong Go.
Bantag said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) went to BuCor Wednesday to start their investigation.
The issue started after the medical certificate of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian circulated online over the weekend showing he was cremated after he died due to COVID-19.
Bantag said there is a possibility that the leakage of information came from BuCor.
Sebastian is one of the state witnesses in the alleged involvement of detained opposition Senator Leila De Lima in illegal drug activities inside the New Bilibid Prison.
Meanwhile, BuCor spokesperson Colonel Gabriel Chaclag said it is impossible that the nine high profile inmates were able to escape and just used the virus as an excuse.
“The speculations just only drain our energy because it is not true. A lot of people were able to see (the incident) and it is impossible to happen this kind of conspiracy is really a grand conspiracy because it will involve hubecause ndreds of personnel,” Chaclag said during the Laging Handa virtual briefing.
Chaclag said they have pictures proving the nine inmates who were cremated really died.
“We want to assure the public that this is not true… we follow all the protocols and we will not be swayed by any monetary consideration if that is what their insinuation,” he said.
“We have pictures… Our doctors, we trust the reputation of our doctors and medical personnel,” he said.
The BuCor official said they are following strict protocols in handling COVID-19 cases and if there is a need to transfer inmates outside the NBP compound, DOH and DOJ are always notified.
“We can assure the public that BuCor is doing its job,” Chaclag said.
He added BuCor welcomes any entity that would like to conduct an investigation. Ella Dionisio/DMS