MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Wednesday said Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag may be sacked from his post even if he can prove that several high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison died due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Gordon, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, noted that Bantag only made the report two months since the inmates died allegedly due to COVID-19.
"Malaking kasalanan talaga 'yan. I am very disappointed in him. Kung talagang namatay o hindi, lumaya o hindi, dapat ni-report," Gordon told reporters in an online press briefing.
(That is really a big fault. I am very disappointed in him. If they really died or if they were freed, it should have been reported.)
Gordon earlier said that the alleged COVID-19-related deaths of the convicted drug lords in the New Bilibid Prison was "doubtful" after Bantag refused to immediately confirm it amid prodding from the media.
Bantag earlier said that confirming their deaths was against the National Privacy Act, but National Privacy Commission chief Mon Liboro said high-profile drug lords are considered public figures, and therefore, not covered by the law.
Gordon urged Bantag to "submit a proper report and temporarily go on leave" while the Department of Justice (DOJ) is conducting an investigation.
The Philippines is being criticized worldwide due to allegations that the BuCor weaponized the global pandemic by using the virus as an excuse to purposely kill or set free high-profile inmates, Gordon said.
"The world is mocking us. Pinagtatawanan tayo (We are being laughed at)," the senator said.
"It is not good for the President, but the DOJ and President can extricate themselves from this quagmire by taking him (Bantag) out right away," the senator said.
It would be better if President Rodrigo Duterte can appoint a new BuCor chief who is "firm and fair," Gordon said.
The Senate is expected to investigate the deaths of high-profile inmates in the national penitentiary after its second regular session opens on July 27.