Jaybee Sebastian was killed, families of other inmates say

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — Contrary to speculations that the late high-profile inmate Jaybee Sebastian had escaped the New Bilibid Prison, some inmates and their families are convinced that he's dead. But not due to the cororonavirus disease.

They believe he was killed.

Magda, not her real name, told CNN Philippines that she and other relatives of the detainees were surprised to hear reports of Sebastian's death due to COVID-19 on July 18.

Hindi po kami makapaniwala," Magda said. "Actually, kasi alam po namin na maayos po si Sir Jaybee."

[Translation: We could not believe it. Actually, from what we know, Sir Jaybee was doing well.]

COVID-positive

Magda's relative, Tonyo – also not his real name – tested positive for COVID-19 along with Sebastian. They were together with other infected inmates until his final days under quarantine.

Magda recalled that Tonyo, Sebastian, and other high-profile inmates went though RT-PCR testing on June 17, after which results turned out positive three to five days later. They were isolated in their cells, she said.

Two weeks later, the coronavirus-stricken inmates were transferred to Site Harry, the isolation facility in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Magda said prison officials never informed them about the situation of their loved ones. She and other families of infected inmates only heard the news from their “intel.”

Meron po kaming kaibigan sa loob na nagsasabing maayos na po silang lahat," she disclosed. "Asymptomatic nga raw po e dahil wala naman pong nararamdaman."

[Translation: We have a friend from inside the prison that told us they are all okay. They were said to be asymptomatic since they did not feel anything.]

Under quarantine?

Magda said despite being diagnosed with the viral disease, her relative was still sent out to attend a hearing in Building 1 shortly after their test results came out.

She said she even doubted if Tonyo really contracted the virus because his escorts did not seem to be bothered by his condition.

"Naka-mask po pero hindi naman po all the time nakasuot. Actually, no’ng naghi-hearing nga… ‘yung guards niya, ‘yung escort niya wala namang mask e." She added that they did not practice social distancing.

[Translation: They have masks but they do not wear it all the time. Actually during the hearing, the guards, the escort, are not wearing masks.]

Citing information from her intel, Magda said Sebastian also attended a meeting at Building 1 even though he’s supposed to be isolated. It's not clear what the meeting was about.

Sebastian was physically active while under quarantine and even met with his lawyer days before he died, Magda said, further raising doubts about the real cause of his death.

“Siya (lawyer) po ‘yong nakakita, sabi niya nga po, si Sir Jaybee, ‘he was very healthy, he was lively.' Masaya na po si Sir Jaybee kasi ibabalik na po siya sa Building 14,” Magda recalled.

[Translation: The lawyer saw him and said that Sir Jaybee, 'he was very healthy, he was lively.' Sir Jaybee is happy because he's returning to Building 14.]

Jaybee is dead

On the morning of July 18, a van without a license plate arrived to bring Sebastian to the Bilibid Hospital for a swab test to confirm that he had recovered from COVID-19 since he already got a negative rapid test result.

Sebastian’s wife and lawyer trailed the van, Magda said.

No’ng pumasok na po ‘yong van sa loob ng NBP, after a few minutes, tumawag na po ‘yong hospital sa wife na dead on arrival na po si Sir Jaybee," Magda said.

[Translation: When the van entered NBP, after a few minutes, the hospital called the wife and said Sir Jaybee was dead on arrival.]

Sobrang nakakagulat po kasi alam naming lahat and lahat po ng intel namin nagsasabi na maayos po sila doon," Magda said. "Masigla po silang lahat. Wala pong may lagnat, may ubo or kahit anong symptoms ng COVID."

[Translation: It was really shocking because we all know and our intel are saying that they are all doing well there. They are healthy. They do not have fever, cough, or any COVID symptoms.]

Magda said she is convinced Sebastian did not die of COVID-19.

"Siguro tinrabaho sila," she said. "Pare-pareho po ang kinahinatnan: myocardial infarction due to COVID, which is alam naman po naming lahat na maayos po ang family namin na PDL sa loob."

[Translation: Maybe they were killed. They all had the same fate: myocardial infarction due to COVID, while we know that our loved ones who are persons deprived of liberty were actually doing well.]

LIST: High-profile Bilibid inmates whose deaths are linked to COVID-19, according to BuCor

'Well-loved leader, target'

Magda said Sebastian had been a target for so long.

In 2016, Sebastian was stabbed along with three other high-profile inmates – Tony Co, Peter Co and Vicente Sy.

Tony Co died, while Sebastian, Co and Sy survived.

Magda described Sebastian as a kind and well-loved leader.

Lahat po sumusunod sa kanya kaya ganyan nangyari sa kanya," she said. "Sa kanya nagko-consult halos lahat ng kasama niya.”

[Translation: All are following him that's why that happened to him. His fellow inmates were consulting him.]

Alleged execution

Inmates and their families point to Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag as the one behind the death of Sebastian and other high-profile inmates.

Dahil ito pong si Director Bantag ay nangako kay President Duterte na lilinisin niya ang Bilibid bago siya umalis,” Magda said.

[Translation: Because Director Bantag promised President Duterte that he will cleanse the Bilibid before he leaves.]

BuCor has denied allegations it is using the pandemic to execute high-profile detainees. Its spokesperson, Gabriel Chaclag, maintained that the inmates died of COVID-19, as written in their death certificates. He said these are documented from the time they were isolated up to their cremation.

Ma’am, ang COVID-19 ay wala pong pinipili," Chaclag said. "At napakaimposible po ang ganyang haka-haka kasi marami tayong partners na palaging nagbi-visit sa ating mga facilities.”

[Translation: COVID-19 does not choose its victims. And the speculations are impossible because we have many partners visiting our facilities.]

READ: 'Impossible' to fake death of Jaybee Sebastian – BuCor

CNN Philippines has reached out to Bantag for a comment, but he declined to give a statement. He said the BuCor will hold another media briefing in the coming days.

Meanwhile, other inmates and their families are also worried, according to Magda.

Napakasakit kasi hindi niyo po alam kung anong pinagdadaanan naming lahat," she said. "‘Yung takot po, ‘yung pangamba na baka bukas ba or sa mga susunod na araw, makakasama pa ba namin ‘yung pamilya namin?”

[Translation: It's really painful because you do not know what we are going through. The fear, the worries, can we still be with our loved ones tomorrow or in the coming days?}