An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Sunday called for the proper burial of the remains of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) who died inside the New Bilibid Prison.
Deceased inmates should also be given respect and dignity, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care Executive Secretary Fr. Nezelle Lirio told ABS-CBN News.
“The body houses the soul that God has given us. When God created us, it imbued us with the dignity of the human person. Therefore, respecting a person and respecting his body should be present,” Lirio said.
At least 176 bodies of dead prisoners were still at a funeral parlor in Muntinlupa City accredited by the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), the Department of Justice said.
The unclaimed cadavers were discovered after authorities investigated the death of Jun Villamor, a prisoner at the Bilibid who was identified as one of the middlemen in the Oct. 3 murder of broadcaster Percival “Percy Lapid” Mabasa.
Forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun said some 120 bodies there are already “mummified” or in a state of decomposition. Seeing the dire condition of the remains, Fortun said the system needed to be changed for the dignity of the dead.
“The dead are pitiful. Come on, give them dignity. We can learn a lot from this. My question is, why do prisoners die? Why a lot of them? Compared to other institutions, this is not a good record,” Fortun said.
The DOJ said it is now communicating with the families of the deceased inmates before the bodies undergo autopsy with spokesperson Jose Dominic “Mico” Clavano IV saying some families have started to come forward to claim the remains of their loved ones.
Unclaimed bodies that will not undergo autopsy will be buried within the premises of the state penitentiary, he said.
Bodies for autopsy will be kept until the examination is finished, while those not for autopsy can be released, Clavano told ABS-CBN News.
Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla earlier ordered the autopsy of the remains following the report that 2 to 3 people die every day at Bilibid.
Based on the BuCor list, most of the inmates died allegedly due to acute myocardial infarction or heart attack, pneumonia, and cardiorespiratory arrest, or the sudden loss of breathing and heart function.
Others allegedly died due to cardiovascular “accidents” while one inmate allegedly took his own life.
Fortun does not discount the possibility there could be foul play in some deaths, saying prisoners are not expected to die in jail, especially if they are still young.