Probe into deaths of Bilibid high-profile inmates due to COVID-19 sought in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   July 22, 2020   •   756

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the deaths of nine inmates in the New Bilibid Prison after allegedly testing positive for novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In filing Senate Resolution No. 473, Hontiveros said the deaths of these high-profile inmates must be looked into following questions surrounding their demise.

“It is baffling how COVID-19 was able to wipe out several drug lords with one blow,” she said in a statement.

“For the sake of transparency, they need to be clarified,” she added.

Hontiveros pointed out that previous Senate investigation on the alleged corruption inside BuCor have revealed “schemes in which high-ranking officials of the bureau would dispense favors to rich inmates in exchange for monetary consideration.”

She said these schemes and the immediate disposal of the remains cast a cloud of doubt over the reported deaths of the inmates.

“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,” Hontiveros said,

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) earlier confirmed that a number of inmates, nine of whom were high-profile, in the New Bilibid Prisons have succumbed to COVID-19.

BuCor chief Gerald Bantag, however, said he cannot disclose the names of these individuals pursuant to the Data Privacy Act.

The Department of Justice has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to delve into the issue.

Meanwhile, Hontiveros’ resolution also sought to investigate 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,” she added.

PNP welcomes new height requirement for uniformed personnel

Robie de Guzman   •   May 28, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Friday welcomed the signing of a new law that lowers the minimum height requirement for aspiring members of the police organization and other uniformed services.

“We welcome this new height requirement for aspiring police officers and other uniformed personnel. Suportado po natin ang wisdom ng ating Pangulo dito,” PNP chief General Guillermo Eleazar said.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act (RA) 11549 or the PNP, BFP, BJMP, and BuCor Height Equality Act on May 26.

The new law amends sections of three different laws, which set the general and standard qualifications for the members of the PNP, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

The law now sets the minimum height requirement of 1.57 meters or 5 feet 2 inches for male applicants, and 1.52 meters or 5 feet for females.

Eleazar emphasized that height and physical appearance should not be an obstacle for individuals who want to join the uniformed services.

“Kamiy natutuwa dahil sa totoo lang itong kagalingan ng pulis ay hindi nakikita sa kanyang height, sa kanyang kisig, gandang lalaki o gandang babae, nakikita yan sa kanyang dedikasyon, sa kanyang kwalipikasyon na inilabas ng NAPOLCOM at syempre base na rin sa ating gagawing paghuhubog sa kanila,” he said.

The PNP chief disclosed that he had already given instruction to police applicants whose height is under the current requirement but meets with the new minimum height requirement under Republic Act 11549.

“Merong mga nag-apply na kinapos sa existing height requirement pero pasok sa bagong minimum height requirement kaya nagbigay na ako ng instruction na yung mga nakapag-apply na ay i-accommodate at bigyan na rin ng QR Codes,” he said.

“Tutal ay online naman ang ating application, yung mga gustong mag-apply pa na yung height ay pasok sa bagong minimum height requirement na 5’2” sa mga lalaki at 5.0 feet sa mga babae, welcome po kayo at ipo-proseso naming ang inyong application,” he added.

Eleazar said they will seek guidance from the National Police Commission regarding the application of those whose height meets the minimum height requirement of the RA 11549.

RA 11549 will take effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

The implementing rules and regulations of the law shall be promulgated within 90 days since its effectivity.

BuCor warns public vs scammers posing as bureau officials

Robie de Guzman   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Friday warned the public against unscrupulous individuals who are posing as bureau senior officials to extort money from their victims.

The BuCor issued the warning after receiving information about persons who have communicated with its partners or suppliers seeking solicitation for future events.

“We would like to inform the public that BuCor has not authorized any individual to conduct such activity especially using the name of the BuCor officials,” the bureau said in a statement.

“Moreover, there are no personnel allowed to solicit favors and goods on behalf of BuCor,” it added.

The agency advised the public to immediately report such transactions to BuCor contact numbers 8478-3597, 0918 600 1081 (Smart), and 0917 819 2803 (Globe). The public may also send a message via this email address.

High-profile inmate Raymond Dominguez found dead in Bilibid cell – BuCor

Robie de Guzman   •   February 19, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Convicted carjacker Raymond Dominguez was found lifeless inside his cell at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP), the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed Friday.

BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag said Dominguez was found dead by his fellow inmates inside his cell at the NBP maximum security compound at past 6 a.m.

Chaclag said it appears that there was no sign of foul play in Dominguez’s demise but they will wait for the medico-legal report on the cause of death.

“Natagpuan siyang patay sa kaniyang bed so it appears that he died of natural causes pero pinaiimbestigahan pa natin. Wala namang foul play,” he said.

Dominguez had a history of diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, according to Chaclag.

Last year, BuCor denied rumors that Dominguez died of COVID-19 although it confirmed that the inmate had contracted the viral respiratory disease.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has asked the BuCor to submit a report on the inmate’s death.

Dominguez was brought to the NBP in April 2012 after he was convicted of carjacking.

He was said to be a part of the notorious carjack ring responsible for the string of carjacking incidents that made headlines in 2011.

Dominguez’s gang was also linked to other high-profile crimes, including the murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mac Cordova)

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