New Bilibid Prison

Raymond Dominguez dies of ‘natural causes,’ the latest high-profile death in Bilibid

Lian Buan

JAILS. Facade of the New Bilibid Prison, the Philippines' main correctional facility.

Photo by Rappler

Dominguez tests positive for COVID-19 twice, but has recovered, says corrections spokesman Gabriel Chaclag

Car theft convict Raymond Dominguez was found dead in his cell Friday morning, February 19, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) confirmed, making him the latest high-profile convict to die inside the tough New Bilibid Prison (NBP).

BuCor Spokesperson Gabriel Chaclag told reporters Friday that Dominguez seemed to have died from natural causes.

“It appears that he died of natural causes. But we will wait for the medico legal report. No sign of foul play is noted,” Chaclag said.

Chaclag added that Dominguez had recovered twice from COVID-19.

“Twice nag-positive sa COVID-19 pero naka recover (He tested twice for COVID-19 but he recovered),” said Chaclag.

Asked categorically if there was going to be an autopsy, Chaclag said it “depends on the recommendation of the investigator or the family.”

“He has history of hypertension, asthma, and frequent body malaise,” he added.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to get a report from BuCor as of posting. Dominguez had been rumored to be dead since July 2020, but DOJ and BuCor denied these when asked by Rappler to confirm unverified reports back then.

Dominguez was sentenced to 17-36 years in prison in 2012 over carnapping and homicide. He had been in jail 9 years, said Chaclag.

Deaths in BuCor

BuCor had been marred by controversies in the last years, the latest being the successive deaths of high-profile convicts who were infected with coronavirus in a special facility.

They died within days of each other, including a key witness in the Leila de Lima case, Jaybee Sebastian, without being autopsied.

The lack of autopsy, according to BuCor, was aligned with its COVID-19 protocols that all those who died should be immediately cremated to lessen the risk of further virus transmission.

Rappler’s investigations have showed that in the concerning high death toll in the national penitentiary during the pandemic, dozens of prisoners died without ever being tested. This development raised questions about limited testing in prison facilities, and concerns about not getting a full picture of the state of infection there.

In the last months, riots among warring gangs have also killed prisoners in Bilibid. Two riots in one month saw the deaths at least 12 internees.

These have pushed DOJ to investigate BuCor officials for possible

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.