MANILA - Eighteen inmates in two facilities of the Bureau of Corrections have died due to COVID-19, the bureau's spokesman said Sunday.
Gabriel Chaclag said 14 are from the New Bilibid Prison while 4 are from the Correctional Institution for Women.
Chaclag refused to disclose the names of the fatalities, citing the Data Privacy Act. Some media have reported about the death of a high-profile inmate due to COVID-19.
The Department of Health earlier Sunday said 1 inmate has died at the national penitentiary in April, while 13 deaths have so far been reported in other jails due to the infectious disease.
Asked about the protocols in handling the remains of inmates who succumbed to COVID-19, such as having a third party witness the cremation to avoid speculations that the reported death was a cover-up of an escape or illegal release, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra replied, "We are looking at several theories. I expect that there are existing protocols whenever deaths occur inside the prisons."
Guevarra said he will ask BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag to explain all protocols.
As of July 12, the BuCor has recorded 343 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 311 patients have recovered, according to Chaclag.
"Rest assured that the Bureau of Corrections is doing its best to address this pandemic," Bantag said in a separate statement.
"We have been doing quick identification, isolation and treatment programs which have greatly mitigated the risks brought about by the COVID-19 virus."
Partnerships with other government agencies, international organizations and non-government organizations were also forged to address the pandemic, said Bantag.
The Philippines as of Sunday reported 67,456 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which, 43,160 are active. The number of recovered patients is 22,465, while the death toll is 1,831.
--Report from Michael Delizo, Angel Movido and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News