HOUSE PURSUES BILL FOR ‘WEIRD’ DEATH CASES
The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill which seeks to ensure the proper investigation and resolution of death cases, including those involving mysterious and suspicious circumstances.
House Bill 9072 or the “Mandatory Autopsy Law” requires mandatory full autopsy and prohibits the unauthorized disposition of human remains arising from deaths under investigation or mysterious and suspicious circumstances.
Rep. Robert Ace Barbers (2nd District, Surigao del Norte), principal author of the bill, said that so far, no law has been enacted requiring an autopsy to be done on victims who have suffered from crimes or from dubious accidents.
Barbers, Chairman of the Committee on Dangerous Drugs, cited that Section 95 (b)(1) of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 856 or the Code of Sanitation of the Philippines states that a special law may be created to perform autopsies on certain cases.
The bill provides that a mandatory full autopsy shall be performed on human remains without need of a court order in the following cases, subject to Section 95, paragraphs (b) and (c) of PD No. 856 or the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines: 1) deaths resulting from commission of crimes; 2) sudden deaths not caused by readily recognizable diseases or wherein the cause of death cannot be properly certified by a physician on the basis of prior or recent medical attendance; 3) deaths occurring under suspicious circumstances, including those where alcohol, drugs or other toxic substances may have had a bearing on the outcome; 4) deaths occurring as a result of violence or trauma, whether apparently suicidal or accidental, including those due to mechanical, thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiational injury, drowning, cave-ins, and subsidences; 5) any death in which trauma, chemical injury, drug overdose, reaction to drugs or medication or medical treatment was a primary or secondary, direct or indirect, contributory, aggravating, or precipitating cause of death; 6) operative and perioperative deaths in which the death is not readily explainable on basis of prior disease; 7) any death wherein the body is unidentified or unclaimed; 8) deaths known or suspected as due to infectious or contagious disease and constituting a public hazard; and 9) deaths occurring while under law enforcement custody, in prison, in a penal institution, orphanage, senior home, or similar public facility.
The autopsy and dissection of remains shall be performed by any of the following qualified persons: a) government health officers; b) medical officers of law enforcement agencies; and c) members of the medical staff of accredited hospitals.
Moreover, the autopsy report shall remain confidential and only be made available to the investigating authority and the family of the deceased, or upon lawful order of the court.
The bill prohibits the cremation of human remains that are subject to investigation without prior clearance from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) or the Philippine National Police (PNP), as the case may be.
It likewise prohibits the disposition of human remains by individuals, crematoriums or funeral parlors, without prior issuance of a death certificate by a medical authority and the expressed concurrence or approval of the family of the deceased.
A penalty of a fine not exceeding P200,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both at the discretion of the court, shall be meted on any person found guilty of violation of the Act.
The bill directs the PNP to, in coordination with the NBI, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health (DOH) to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations for the implementation of the Act within 90 days after the enactment of the law.
Other authors of the bill are Reps. Romeo Acop, Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, John Marvin Nieto, Winston Castelo, Gus Tambunting, Harry Roque, Jr., Carlos Roman Uybarreta, Edgar Mary Sarmiento, Manuel Luis Lopez, Vicente “Ching” Veloso, Scott Davies Lanete, Leopoldo Bataoil, Strike Revilla, Joaquin Chipeco, Jr., and Eric Olivarez.