Senator dusts off mandatory autopsy bill

Senator Francis Pangilinan has refiled two measures that require mandatory autopsy of persons killed in violent and questionable manner such as victims of anti-drug operations where most cases were declared by the police as “death under inquiry.”

Pangilinan’s move to refile the Mandatory Autopsy Act (Senate Bill 428) and the Mandatory Collection of Biological Specimen and Identifications Act (Senate Bill 429) came in light of the return of cases described as “deaths under investigation.”

The series of violent incidents, according to the senator, “are once again put in the spotlight on the second year since the murder of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.”

Delos Santos was gunned down by police officers conducting an anti-drug operation in Caloocan on the evening of Aug. 16, 2017. The case became controversial when the official police reports differed from witnesses accounts.

Senate Bill 428 seeks to require mandatory autopsy of dead bodies “believed to have died in a violent, suspicious, questionable, unusual and/or unnatural manner.” 

Pangilinan has previously filed the same measure last January 2017 of the previous Congress, but it has stayed pending at the committee level.

“The original purpose of this measure is to help investigate the increasing daily killings way back in 2017. Back then, the victim tally has been at 7,000. At present, the so-called deaths under investigation have reached over 20,000, including children. Clearly, there is a need to legislate measures that will help us solve cases swiftly and efficiently,” the senator said.

Section 3 of the proposed measure mandates autopsy on eight specific cases namely:

• deaths resulting from the commission of crimes;

• deaths with an unidentifiable cause;

• deaths under suspicious circumstances including those whose outcome may have had direct bearing from alcohol, drugs, or other toxic substances;

•    deaths occurring from violence or trauma;

•    operative and perioperative deaths not readily explainable by prior disease;

•    deaths where the body remains unidentified or unclaimed;

•    deaths in prison or when in custody of the police; and

•    deaths of persons whose bodies are to be cremated, buried at sea, or any other form that may render them unavailable to future examinations.

“Several clues may be found after an autopsy that can help tell what really is the story -- something the deceased themselves can no longer do. It is to the best interest of the state for there to be measures that will allow for a swifter investigation. This will also shed light as to where the violence really is, what causes it, and what must be done to address it,” Pangilinan said.

The bill allows only certain board-certified forensic pathologists to be able to conduct the autopsy, such as government health officers, medical officers of law enforcement agencies, and members of the medical staff of accredited hospitals. Results of the autopsy shall remain confidential and is to be restricted only to the investigative agency and the next of kin unless otherwise ordered by the court.

Senate Bill 429, on the other hand, seeks to require the collection of biological specimen and identification samples prior to the cremation of the dead. 

Managers of crematories will be required to keep a book of records with the name, age, sex, and residence of each body cremated along with digital photos, tissue samples for DNA analysis or storage, fingerprints or thumbprints, and the authority for such cremation and the disposition of ashes.

There will also be four requirements before cremation:

•    at least 48 hours since the death occurred;

•    civil and medical authorities issued the required permits;

•    obtained necessary authorization and without any objections; and

•    have been identified by next of kin or authorized agent.

The bill also has provisions on the filing of death certificates, cremation certificates, and cremation permits.

“Our judicial system is in dire need of reforms. We believe that these measures will assist in the efficient and timely administration of justice for the victims, and for their families. Ayaw na nating maulit pa ang mga kaso kagaya nang kay Kian. Ayaw nating masunog ang katotohanan (We don’t want another Kian. We don’t want the truth to get burned),” Pangilinan said. Joel E. Zurbano

Topics: Francis Pangilinan , mandatory autopsy , anti-drug operations , Mandatory Autopsy Act
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