MANILA - The National Privacy Commission (NPC) on Monday said the Data Privacy Act is not applicable on information regarding public figures like high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian.
This, after Bureau of Corrections chief Gerald Bantag refused to confirm reports about Sebastian's death, citing the said law.
NPC commissioner Mon Liboro said the Data Privacy Act cannot be invoked in the said situation, since Sebastian had become a public figure.
"The Data Privacy Act is not a cloak for denying the public's right to know. High-profile inmates like JB (sic) Sebastian had become public figures on account of their previous association with particular national issues in the past," Liboro said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
He also said public interest in the incident is justified since Sebastian is linked to issues already known to the public.
"There is a justified public interest to release information like details surrounding the deaths from COVID-19 of these high-profile inmates, especially when the personal information being sought is linked to issues already on the minds of the public," Liboro added.
Justice Sec. Menardo Guevarra echoed Liboro's statement, at least with respect to Sebastian's death, especially since he was supposed to testify against Senator Leila de Lima.
"At least with respect to Jaybee Sebastian, who was supposed to testify for the people in the cases against Senator De Lima at the time of his death, I certainly agree with Commissioner Liboro’s statement," he said.
Guevarra, however, said it is better to wait for the results of the investigation of the National Bureau of Investigation before revealing information about the eight other inmates.
"As to the eight others who were already serving sentence for drug offenses at the time of their death, it may be prudent to await the results of the NBI investigation first," he added.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier confirmed Sebastian's death as it ordered the NBI to investigate the sudden death of high-profile inmates at the national penitentiary due supposedly to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
The DOJ, in a statement Monday, said Guevarra met with Bantag to discuss the COVID-19 situation in the country's prisons, and the reported deaths of 9 inmates, including Sebastian.
Bantag earlier said 21 inmates contracted COVID-19 and several have died since March.
He also said Sebastian's remains were cremated within 12 hours since his death, following the protocol on deaths due to COVID-19.
- with reports from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News