Malacañang on Tuesday said the death of high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian due to COVID-19 was not discussed in the Cabinet’s meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday.
“Hindi po nabanggit iyan kahapon,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing when asked if Sebastian’s passing was brought up during the meeting, which focused on the government’s response to the pandemic.
It was reported over the weekend that Sebastian and several other high-profile inmates at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City had died and that their remains had been cremated according to COVID-19 protocol.
The Department of Justice confirmed Sebastian’s death on Monday even after Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag said that he could not disclose the names of inmates who died of COVID-19 because of the Data Privacy Act.
Roque said the deaths of inmates must be recorded.
“As to whether na the Data Privacy is applicable, ang pagkakaintindi ko naman, kinakailangang mag-report ang Muntinlupa kung sino iyong mga detainees na namatay,” the Palace official said.
“And that I think is not covered by the Data Privacy Law because they died actually not only because of COVID but also died while in custody of the national penitentiary.”
Sebastian came to prominence in 2016 after he accused Senator Leila De Lima of conspiring with high-profile inmates to sell or trade illegal drugs inside the national penitentiary during her term as justice secretary.
The proceeds from the sale allegedly went to De Lima’s campaign kitty when she ran for senator in 2016.
De Lima, who is currently in detention, has repeatedly denied the allegations.