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Viral Jonel Nuezca's Case Renews Call for Accurate Reporting on Prison Deaths

Sen. Richard Gordon seeks passage of his bill.
by Erwin Colcol
2 hours ago
Photo/s: Philippine National Police Paniqi, Tarlac/Handout

Sen. Richard Gordon on Thursday called for the passage of his measure mandating the accurate reporting of deaths among persons in detention after an ex-policeman who figured in a viral shooting was reported to have died in prison.

While the Bureau of Corrections said Jonel Nuezca expired at the New Bilibid Prisons, the family of an elderly woman and her son whom he shot dead in December 2020 cast doubts on the report's veracity.

Gordon, who chairs the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, urged his colleagues to expedite the approval of Senate Bill 1771, or the Death in Custody Reporting Bill.

“The late reporting of these deaths, suspicious circumstances surrounding the deaths and the identity of these high-profile inmates shocked the nation and questions regarding the truthfulness and veracity of these reports regarding the circumstances of the deaths of the inmates have been questioned,” he said.

Citing an investigative report, Gordon said an average of 50 to 60 prisoners died while serving their sentences inside the National Bilibid Prison from October 2019 to April 2020.

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In July last year, at least nine high-profile inmates at the National Bilibid Prison reportedly died due to COVID-19, including kidnap-for-ransom convict Jaybee Sebastian, a key witness in the illegal drug charges filed against Sen. Leila De Lima.

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“The Filipino people have the right to know what really happened with these inmates. The people felt cheated. Justice was cheated. We cannot let this happen again,” Gordon said.

Under Senate Bill 1771, authorities will be required to file a monthly report of persons deprived of liberty and children in conflict with the law convicted of heinous crimes or crimes punishable by life imprisonment to the justice, interior, and social welfare departments, the Supreme Court, and the Commission on Human Rights.

The National Bureau of Investigation will automatically investigate cases of suspicious deaths of inmates. Non-reporting of deaths will be punishable by six to 12 years in prison on top of a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1 million.

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If the authorized official gave a false report of the death or let the prisoner escape, he or she will be slapped with the same jail sentence as the prisoner and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P5 million.


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