The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of murder charges against 22 Metro Manila police officers for their role in the suspicious deaths of eight high-profile prisoners, which were passed off as COVID-19 casualties.
The NBI conducted its investigation after the Department of Justice ordered it to look into the deaths of Jaybee Sebastian, Francis Go, Shuli Lim Zhang, Jimmy Ang, Eugene Chua, Benjamin Marcelo, Sherwin Sanchez, Amin Boratong, and Willy Yang, all inmates at the New Bilibid Prison.
The NBI said careful examination of sworn statements of witnesses and the records of the NBP revealed the following:
1. The room assignment of the high-profile inmates at Building 4, Site Harry, where they were confined during their alleged infection with COVID-19, was according to the nature of their criminal conviction. All of them were involved in illegal drugs. (Site Harry is a quarantine facility set up with the assistance of the Department of Health and the International Committee of the Red Cross inside the national penitentiary to serve as an isolation site for inmates and jail personnel who tested positive for the coronavirus.)
2. Immediately after the segregation and transfer to the “comfortable” isolation room, victims died.
3. Witnesses had not observed any unusual situation while the prisoners were inside the isolation area, even when their rooms were only separated either by curtains or plywood;
4. The only irregular observation they made was that their co-inmates gradually disappeared from Building 4 after they had revealed that they were to be transferred to the “comfortable” isolation room.
5. This is inconsistent with the allegations of National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) personnel who all said they administered nursing intervention and were all on-alert when the prisoners were in an “emergency.”
6. A significant amount of time elapsed before the victims were brought to the nearest hospital.
7. All the inmates 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 inmates generally revealed that days before they died, they exhibited neither chronic symptoms of COVID-19 nor any weakness.
8. The subjects of the investigation took advantage of the fact that the victims were confined in an NCRPO-managed isolation area because of COVID-19, where cadavers should be immediately cremated.
9. The circumstances surrounding the death of Jaybee Sebastian showed that he died of natural causes.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla on Tuesday vowed to hold all those involved accountable in the suspicious deaths of inmates.
This came after Remulla met with newly appointed NBI Officer-in-Charge Medardo G. De Lemos on Monday.
Lawyer Jose Dominic Clavano of the Office of the Secretary of Justice confirmed the meeting was held after the NBI filed a murder complaint against members of the NCRPO.
NBI Deputy Director Ferdinand Lavin earlier said that 22 members of the Philippine National Polce’s NCRPO were named as respondents in the murder complaint.
All respondents who were assigned at the NBP when the deaths of the inmates occurred were accused of having committed eight counts of murder.
In 2020, then Justice Secretary and now Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra ordered the NBI to investigate the deaths of high-profile inmates at the NBP allegedly due to COVID-19.