Bilibid inmate Jaybee Sebastian dies of COVID-19 complications

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 19)—  High-profile convict Jaybee Sebastian died on Saturday due to complications from COVID-19.

A death certificate obtained by CNN Philippines on Sunday showed that the New Bilibid Prison inmate suffered acute myocardial infarction or heart attack, with the viral disease listed as a significant condition contributing to his death.

Sebastian passed away at the Bilibid hospital in Muntinlupa City, the document further noted.

His remains were cremated at the Panteon de Dasmarinas on the same day, according to the crematorium’s officer-in-charge Liezl Camaganacan.

Camaganacan said Sebastian’s remains arrived at the facility at around 9:22 p.m., adding that the cremation process took about two hours.

The ashes will be picked up by the Bureau of Corrections, she added.

“Bakante naman 'yung isang machine namin kaya pinasalang na agad namin ‘yung patay,” the crematorium officer said.

[Translation: One of our machines was vacant, so we cremated the deceased immediately.]

Other inmates succumbed to COVID-19?

Data obtained by CNN Philippines showed that apart from Sebastian, there were over 20 other Bilibid inmates who died from COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 from May 30 until the present.

BuCor, for its part, confirmed there were detainees who died due to the infectious disease, but said it cannot release names due to the Data Privacy Act.

“As much as we want to inform the public with respect to the names of PDL who died due to COVID-19, the data privacy act prohibits us from doing so. Rest assured that the bureau is doing its best to address this pandemic,” BuCor Director General Gerald Bantag said in a statement, noting authorities have rolled out isolation and treatment programs to combat the spread of the virus.

Sebastian— previously identified by fellow inmates as the top drug lord inside the Bilibid— had earlier testified against detained Senator Leila de Lima at a 2016 House probe.

He had admitted to helping detained Senator Leila de Lima fund her 2016 senatorial campaign using drug money. De Lima has repeatedly denied allegations and said Sebastian was "pushed to the wall" after being pressured to testify and make up stories against her.

Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he has summoned Bantag to his office on Monday, to discuss the reported deaths of high-profile inmates, as well as other protocols needed in the Bilibid.

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel, Anjo Alimario, and Paolo Barcelon contributed to this report.