THE Department of Justice (DOJ) assured on Tuesday that it will hold accountable all those who will be found involved in the “suspicious deaths” of several high-profile inmates inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa.
Lawyer Jose Dominic Clavano, who has been assigned by Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla to answer queries from the media, disclosed that a meeting was held between the DOJ chief and newly appointed National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Officer in Charge Medardo de Lemos and one of the issues discussed was the filing of murder complaints before the justice department by the NBI against 22 members of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) in connection with the questionable deaths of these high-profile inmates at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic from May to July of 2020.
Among the persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who died during the said period were Jaybee Sebastian, Francis Go, Shuli Zhang, Hung Kin Sing alias Jimmy Ang, Eugene Ho Chua, Benjamin Marcelo, Sherwin Sanchez, Amin Imam Boratong, and Willy Yang.
Aside from Sebastian, who was convicted for kidnap-for-ransom and carjacking and Sanchez who was convicted for murder, the seven other PDLs were convicted for drug trafficking.
Clavano has asked the public to give the justice department sufficient time to review and gather more details about the case.
“We are looking deeper into the matter. There are facts we need to validate from the NBI to hold all those involved accountable,” Clavano said.
“A meeting was held between the SOJ [Secretary of Justice] and the NBI director yesterday [Monday]. The issue was discussed and SOJ wanted to validate the facts already presented but would like to inquire more into the incident,” he added.
Clavano said there was “no decision yet” on the part of Remulla on whether there is a need to put on hold the DOJ’s proceedings on the case filed by the NCRPO against the 22 policemen pending the review of the facts of the case.
The 22 NCRPO policemen who are subjects of the complaint were reportedly assigned to the NBP at the time of the death of the nine PDLs.
Comfortable isolation room or death chamber?
The NBI, meanwhile, said in a news statement the circumstances surrounding the death of Sebastian showed that he died of natural causes.
The NBI-Death Investigation Division (DID) conducted an investigation into the mysterious deaths of the eight inmates by virtue of Department Order No. 179 series of 2020, issued by then Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra, directing to probe the deaths of Sebastian, and eight other high-profile PDLs, who allegedly died of Covid-19 or its complications while isolated inside Building 4 (Site Harry) facility of the NBP, the control of which was under the members of the NCRPO security and medical teams.
During its investigation, the NBI-DID gathered from the statements of witnesses and the records of the NBP that the said high-profile inmates “gradually disappeared” from Building 4 after they had revealed that they were to be transferred to the “comfortable” isolation room.
“Immediately after the segregation and transfer to the “comfortable” isolation room, victims died,” the NBI said.
The death of the high-profile inmates, according to the NBI, was inconsistent with the claims of the NCRPO personnel that they administered nursing intervention and were all on alert when the PDLs were on “emergency situation.”
It also noted the significant amount of time elapsed before the victims were brought to the nearest hospital.
“All the deceased PDLs were declared dead on arrival, the cause of death either by cardiac or pulmonary arrest. However, a close examination of the medical profile of the deceased high-profile PDLs generally revealed that days before they died, they exhibited neither chronic symptom of Covid-19, including difficulty in breathing or shortness of breath, nor were they observed to be weak or particularly ill. Witnesses had seen them to be well, normal, or lively,” the NBI said.
“Subjects took advantage of the fact that victims were confined at Building 4, Site Harry, an NCRPO-managed isolation area, due to Covid-19 infection. They availed of the situation that in case of Covid-19 cases, cadavers should immediately be cremated. Cremation, for this case, was the final act to consummate and effectively cover-up the scheme to kill the victims…,” it added.
In light of this, the NBI-DID has filed before the DOJ eight counts of murder as defined and penalized under Article 248 of the Revised Penal Code, against Police Major (PMaj) Lymel John Pasquin, Police Staff Sergeant (PSSg) Christian Mercarsos, Police Corporal (PCpl) Laurence Antiporta, PCpl Jhunben Alegado, PCpl. Jayson Añonuevo, PCpl. Rosanie Bernales, PCpl. Michael Boco, PCpl. Rolex Borgonia, PCpl. Jophy Buot, PCpl. Gilwen Garcia, PCpl. Edmar Gerra, PCpl. Archie Grapa, PCpl. Vernardo Into, PCpl. Ener Restauro, PCpl. Banedy Solante, PCpl. Jernie Mata Tiongzon, Jan Anthon Uy, Patrolman Roland Butch Duran, Patrolman James Aninapon, Patrolman Rey Fernandez and Dr. Beverly de Guzman.