MANILA — An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday called for the proper burial of the remains of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who died inside the New Bilibid Prison.
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care Executive Secretary Fr. Nezelle Lirio said deceased inmates should also be given respect and dignity.
“Kasi ‘yung katawan ay pinaglagakan ng kaluluwa na bigay ng Diyos sa atin. At siyempre, nu’ng nilikha tayo ng Diyos, nando’n ‘yung dignity of the human person. Kaya kumbaga, ‘yung paggalang sa buhay ng tao at paggalang din do’n sa kanyang katawan eh dapat nando’n,” Lirio said.
Earlier, it was discovered that at least 176 bodies of dead PDLs were still at a funeral parlor in Muntinlupa City which was accredited by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).
Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun said some 120 bodies are already “mummified” or in a state of decomposition.
Seeing the dire condition of the remains, Fortun said the system needed to be changed for the dignity of the dead.
“Kawawa ‘yung patay. Come on, give them dignitiy in them. Maraming puwedeng pag-aralan dito. Kasi ang tanong ko, ba’t namamatay ang mga preso? Ang dami? Compared to other institutions, hindi maganda itong record na ito,” Fortun said.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is now in the process of communicating with the families of deceased inmates before the bodies undergo autopsy.
DOJ spokesperson Jose Dominic “Mico” Clavano IV said some families have started to come forward to claim the remains of their loved ones.
Unclaimed bodies that will not undergo autopsy will be buried within the premises of the state penitentiary, he said
Bodies for autopsy will be kept until the examination is finished, while those not for autopsy can be released, Clavano told ABS-CBN News.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier ordered the autopsy of the remains following the report that at least 2 to 3 people die almost every day at Bilibid.
Based on the list from the BuCor, most of the inmates died allegedly due to acute myocardial infarction or heart attack, pneumonia, and cardiorespiratory arrest or the sudden loss of breathing and heart function.
Others allegedly died due to cardiovascular "accidents" while one inmate allegedly took his own life.
Fortun does not discount the possibility there could be foul play in some deaths.
"‘Pag ang tao, kinulong mo, hindi expected ‘yan na mamamatay siya sa preso, lalo pa ‘yung mga bata,” she said.
The unclaimed cadavers were discovered after authorities investigated the death of Jun Villamor, a PDL at the Bilibid who was identified as one of the middlemen in the Oct. 3 murder of broadcaster Percival "Percy Lapid" Mabasa.