By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Richard J. Gordon today welcomed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR)’s support to a measure mandating accurate reporting of deaths and illnesses of persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) and detained children in conflict with the law (CICL).
Gordon, who chairs the Senate justice and human rights committee, said CHR’s support to Senate Bill (SB) 1771, also known as the Death in Custody Reporting Bill, comes at a judicious time to institute further reforms in our penal system.
“We appreciate the support to the measure which addresses growing public doubts, if not at all suspicions, about the mysterious circumstances behind the untimely death of some high-profile inmates, especially during a public health crisis,” he said.
“Dahil kadalasan ay itinatago ang tunay na dahilan ng pagkamatay ng ilang bilanggo, lumalakas ang pagdududa ng taumbayan at ng pamilya ng bilanggo ukol sa pagkamatay ng kanilang mahal sa buhay ay maaaring dulot ng iligal na pamamaraan,” he added.
Last Dec. 18, CHR Spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia lauded the filing of the bill which she said would ensure a transparent justice system and a humane treatment of all PDLs and CICLs in the country.
She added that the bill, once passed into law, would be an effective deterrent against cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment against detained persons in line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Being the lead agency in the Interim National Preventive Mechanism, de Guia said the CHR consistently supports actions and additional safeguards that would improve the well-being and situation of PDLs and CICLs.
Human Rights Watch has suspected that the government has not reported accurately the deaths that occurred in the country’s overcrowded prisons and jails during this pandemic brought about by the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Gordon’s measure mandates the monthly filing of reports of PDLs or CICLs convicted of a heinous crime or crimes punishable by Reclusion Perpetua to the CHR, along with Justice, Interior, and Social Welfare departments, and the Supreme Court.
An automatic motu propio investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation will be triggered if the PDL or CICL had died due to mysterious circumstances and must collate evidence proving the cause of death.
Non-reporting will be punishable by six to 12-year imprisonment, on top of a fine ranging from PhP500,000 to PhP1,000,000.
In addition, false reporting, or an escape committed by PDL or CICL due to it will merit an equivalent sentence to the offending party appropriated to the prisoner and fines ranging from PhP500,000 to PhP5,000,000. (ai/mtvn)