Ellen Tordesillas

What’s next for those high-profile inmates who ‘died’ of Covid-19

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Doubts that were raised in reaction to news reports about the death of nine high-profile inmates of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa due to Covid-19 reflect on the zero credibility of the agency that has been embroiled in a number of scandals, the most recent of which was the “freedom for sale” scheme.

'Too many unanswered questions': Sotto seeks probe into deaths of drug lords in Bilibid

News reports said among those who died and whose body was immediately cremated was Jaybee Sebastian, a government witness and also a co-respondent in the drug trafficking cases filed against Sen. Leila de Lima.

Others who were reported to have died due to Covid-19 were Benjamin Marcelo, leader of Chinese inmates at NBP; Zhang Zhu Li, Jimmy Kinsing Hung, Francis Go, Jimmy Yang, Eugene Chua, Ryan Ong and Amin Imam Buratong, convicted operator of the shabu tiangge in Pasig City in 2009.

Immediately after the news report came out, ABS-CBN ran a December 2017 article published in the United Kingdom’s The Telegraph titled, “Faking your own death: How the Philippines became the global leader for a macabre trade.” 

The article is a feature on the book by Elizabeth Greenword titled,

”Playing Dead: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud” published in 2016.

An August 2016 article by Greenword at npr.org titled “3 Steps To Faking Your Own Death" said she has heard of the Philippines all through her research for her book.

“I'd heard that there are black market morgues where unidentified people are brought in and kept on ice and then death fraudsters will go to the morgues and buy these bodies very cheaply, have them cremated immediately and then try to pass off the cremains as their own. So I was very excited to visit the Philippines,” she said.

She related: “While I was there, I was able to acquire my own death certificate and accident report detailing my fatal car crash. And the whole way leading up to that moment I wasn't that nervous. And then when I actually opened up that manila envelope and held this very clinical government document in my hands that said I'd died on arrival at this hospital on this date, it was very, very chilling. And it really all kind of became very real. In a way, it had just been theoretical up until then.”

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has ordered an investigation of the infamous’ inmates’ death but no one is really expecting anything to dispel their doubts.

Chat groups are filled with scenarios what to expect next, inspired by past reports of plastic surgeries of drug lords in Colombia and Mexico underwent to evade authorities.

There was the report about a former Colombian drug lord, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, who testified in the trial of the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in November 2018, with distorted facial features.

He admitted in court that he had undergone at least three surgeries that altered his jawbone, cheekbones, eyes, mouth, ears, and nose.

Despite the distortion of his face, U.S. authorities still got him.

There’s also the 2016 report about David Garza Ávila, known as El Diablo or The Devil for the executions he had performed in Mexico, who was arrested on his way to Mexico City hospital to undergo plastic surgery on his face.

The most publicized was about Amado Carrillo Fuentes, also known as “The Lord of the Skies,” because he trafficked cocaine from Mexico to America using fleets of aircrafts, who died while undergoing plastic surgery in 1997 to alter his appearance.

The surgery took place at early morning of July 4 in Mexico City's private Santa Monica hospital where the drug lord took over an entire floor and a maternity wing and posted automatic weapons-wielding-bodyguards.

Some reports said Fuentes’ surgery was “botched.” He reportedly died of a heart attack hospital after undergoing liposuction and plastic surgery.

Some reports suspected the involvement of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration saying “the drug lord, whose net worth was estimated at $25bn, may have been killed by a lethal injection, or an almohadazo, suffocation by a pillow held over him by a bodyguard.”

Bodies of his plastic surgeons were later found stuffed inside oil drums filled with cement.

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