JUSTICE Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Sunday denied accusations made by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has not been cooperative and transparent about the conditions inside the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), particularly in this pandemic.
In a text message to reporters, Guevarra stressed that the Justice department is also looking into bizarre events happening inside the BuCor.
“The DOJ has been trying to uncover strange things happening at the BuCor, that is why it has ordered the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) to step in,” Gueverra said.
“It is not fair to say that the department has not been transparent about the conditions at the BuCor,” he added.
Guevarra was reacting to the CHR’s statement claiming that the DOJ and the BuCor have been silent on their correspondences on prison conditions amid the coronavirus.
The BuCor is an attached agency of the DOJ. But under the BuCor Law, the DOJ only has supervision and no control over the bureau’s operations.
The CHR said it has been seeking information from the DOJ and the BuCor as to the list of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) confined at Site Harry or any other quarantine stations, as well as the list of PDLs who died due to the virus.
The said agencies, according to the CHR, have yet to respond despite the lapse of 15 days.
The DOJ secretary earlier asked the NBI to look into the deaths of nine high-profile inmates, including drug convict Jaybee Sebastian, who is one of the accused-witnesses in the illegal drug trade case filed against opposition senator Leila de Lima before the Regional Trial Court of Muntinlupa City.
“I think DOJ Usec Deo Marco has already requested the list from BuCor. We’ll just follow up. This kind of information is available only from the primary source. The DOJ does not keep the official files of the BuCor nor the personal records of PDLs.”
DOJ Undersecretary Deo Marco confirmed that they have already mailed to CHR the list that it requested.
Meanwhile, Guevarra expressed confidence that the BuCor can handle alleged death threats being received by its personnel following the deaths of Sebastian and other high-profile inmates.
“The BuCor people are accustomed to threats from inside and outside the prison walls due to the nature of their job. They have adapted and they know what precautions to take…They coexist with the most dangerous people in the country. They are on alert 24/7,” Guevarra said.
The BuCor reportedly raised its alert level following reports that there were threats made against its officers believed to have been triggered by the death of nine high-profile PDLs due to coronavirus.