Public has ‘legitimate interest’ to know circumstances surrounding Bilibid deaths –Privacy Comm. Liboro

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The National Privacy Commission (NPC) chief on Thursday said the public has the right to demand transparency on the deaths of high-profile inmates in the New Bilibid Prison.

Privacy Commissioner Raymund Liboro, during the Laging Handa public briefing, reiterated that the Data Privacy Act cannot be used to cloak the public’s right to know since the high-profile inmates association to relevant national issues has made their status or deaths a “public concern.”

“Sa aking pagtaya po may justification po ‘yung public interest sa bagay na ito pagkat ang mga high-profile PDLs (persons deprived of liberty) by virtue of their association sa nakaraang national issues ay naging public interest na po siya o public concern,” Liboro said.

“Kaya itong mga bagay na ito na bumabalot sa kanilang status kung anoman ang kanilang sinapit ay maaring sabihin ng publiko na meron silang concern o interes na malaman,” Liboro said.

The Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) has confirmed the death of high profile inmates reportedly due to COVID-19.

BuCor also released photos of the remains and death certificate of Jaybee Sebastian to dispel suspicions of foul play.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate.

At least two Senate resolutions have been filed seeking a similar probe, including one filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

Senator Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, has warned that it is dangerous and prone to abuses if BuCor will be allowed to invoke the Data Privacy law to deflect demands for transparency on the deaths of high-profile Bilibid inmates.

IBP president Domingo Egon Cayosa also called for transparency on the matter, saying the Data Privacy law should not be “misused to blur the accountability of public officers, thwart the constitutional right to information on matters of public concern, or disregard the personal interest of the victims and all those who labored to hold the guilty liable.”

Liboro reiterated that the Data Privacy law does not prohibit the disclosure or information, rather it promotes “free flow” of information.

Apart from Data Privacy law, the Privacy chief said that Public Health Concerns Act as well as the President’s executive order on Freedom of Information is also applicable on the case of Bilibid inmates’ deaths.

Liboro said that while the Data Privacy Act has a “unique provision” on the transmissibility of rights of data subjects or the right of the next of kin of a deceased individual to assert privacy rights, public concern or public interest has the greater weight on the matter.

“Nais ko lamang banggitin na sa lahat ng ito ang mas tumitimbang ay ang issue ng public concern, public interest, legitimate interest…,” Liboro also said./Stacy Ang

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