New Bilibid Prison (File photo)

MANILA – Republic Act (RA) 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 cannot be invoked to conceal information about high-profile inmates who died of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), Malacañang said Tuesday.

So said in a virtual presser Tuesday Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque saying the names of inmates who died of Covid-19 should be divulged.

“Kinakailangan ma-report kung sino ‘yung mga detainee na namatay (The identities of detainees who died should be reported) and that I think is not covered by the Data Privacy Law because they died actually not only because of [Covid-19] but they also died while in the custody of the national penitentiary,” Roque said.

DOJ confirms deaths

On Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) confirmed that nine high-profile inmates from the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City died of Covid-19.

One of the fatalities was Jaybee Sebastian, a convicted kidnapper and car thief who served as a witness and co-accused in one of the drug charges against detained Senator Leila de Lima before the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court.

The eight other inmates who died of Covid-19 are Benjamin Marcelo, Jimmy Yang, Zhang Zhu Li, Jimmy Kinsing Hung, Eugene Chua, Ryan Ong, and Amin Imam Boratong, reports said.

Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag earlier refused to reveal the identities of high-profile inmates who died of Covid-19, stressing that the Data Privacy prevents him from naming them in public.

RA 10173 or the Data Privacy Act of 2012 protects persons from unauthorized processing of their personal information.

National Privacy Commission (NPC) Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro on Monday said RA 10173 is not applicable to the case of Sebastian and other inmates who died of Covid-19.

Liboro said the Data Privacy law is “not a cloak for denying the public’s right to know.”

‘High-profile inmates like Jaybee Sebastian had become public figures on account of their previous association with particular national issues in the past,” he said.

Liboro said there is a “justified public interest” to release information like details surrounding the deaths from Covid-19 of the nine high-profile inmates, “especially when the personal information being sought is linked to issues already on the minds of the public.”

Malacañang on Monday said it will leave the investigation on the deaths of the nine high-profile inmates to the DOJ. (PNA)