Jaybee Sebastian, one of nine high-profile inmates at the National Penitentiary who reportedly died during the COVID-19 quarantine lit up Twitter this week, reflecting disbelief over the circumstances of their passing.
Twitter users asked how Sebastian's death was shrouded in mystery given his physical size and the role he played in the build-up of drug dealing charges that landed Sen. Leila de Lima in jail. Sebastian told a congressional hearing in 2016 that he raised P14 million for De Lima's election campaign.
Sebastian’s death certificate dated July 18 said he died of acute myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, at the National Bilibid Prisons Hospital at 10:15 a.m. COVID-19 was cited as “other significant conditions contributing to death.” There was no autopsy before he was cremated. Prison authorities said they couldn't be compelled to release more information, citing the Data Privacy Act.
Authorities paid P15,000 per cremation in Dasmarinas City, according to Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, who has jurisdiction over the area. There were “death certificates and proper papers, so the bodies were cremated straight away," he said.
Apart from Sebastian, the list of NBP COVID-19 deaths allegedly included Benjamin Marcelo, Jimmy Yang, Zhang Zhu Li, Jimmy Kinsing Hung, Eugene Chua, Ryan Ong, and Amin Imam Boratong—all of whom are part of Bilibid 19, inmates who allegedly enjoyed luxuries in prison.
Who is Jaybee Sebastian?
Sebastian, whose full name is Jaybee Niño Sebastian, dropped out of college during his third year and later faced 15 years in prison for charges of kidnapping and car theft.
He first wound up in the National Bureau of Investigation’s detention center, before finally moving to Manila City Jail. He later became overall adviser of the Sigue Sigue Commando gang. In 2009, he was sent to the New Bilibid Prison.
Sebastian knew how drug rings were operated from prison and was the subject of a congressional hearing in 2016. According to then Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, Sebastian raised funds for De Lima’s senatorial campaign that same year.
De Lima said Sebastian was a government “asset” who supplied information on the Bilibid drug trade, which led to the transfer of top gang leaders to the NBI detention center. Sebastian later denied this claim.