Pangilinan refiles bills seeking to speed up murder investigations

MANILA, Philippines – On the second year of the death Kian delos Santos, Senator Francis Pangilinan refiled two bills that seek to speed up the investigation of murder cases.

Pangilinan said in a statement on Saturday, August 17, that he has refiled Senate Bill No. 428 seeking mandatory autopsies on crime victims, and Senate Bill 429 seeking crematories' compulsory collection of biological specimen.

SB 428 seeks mandatory autopsies on bodies of those “believed to have died in a violent, suspicious, questionable, unusual and/or unnatural manner.” The proposed measure was originally filed in January 2017 but remained pending at the committee level.

Under the bill, mandatory autopsies should be performed in the following cases:

“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,” Pangilinan said. (READ: The Impunity Series)

Under the bill, only certain board-certified forensic pathologists are allowed to conduct the autopsy. The autopsy results shall be confidential and shall only be made available to the investigative agency and the next of kin unless otherwise ordered by the court.

Pangilinan first filed Senate Bill 429 following the grim case of South Korean businessman Jee Ick-joo in October 2016, which became an eye-opener for authorities involved in the Duterte administration's Oplan Tokhang.

Jee was abducted by cops who claimed they were investigating a drug case, then later killed him in Camp Crame. His remains were brought to a funeral parlor where it was cremated upon the request of the principal suspect, police office Ricky Sta Isabel.

Pangilinan had said that the incident highlighted the "ease" of criminals in getting rid of evidence.

SB 429 seeks to require crematories to collect biological and identification specimens from dead bodies prior to the cremation, including tissue samples, fingerprints or thumbprints. Crematories will also be required to keep a logbook of each cremated body, including digital photos.

The bill proposes that cremation can only take place after 4 conditions are met: the body has been dead for at least 48 hours, civil and medical authorities have issued permits, all the necessary authorization has been obtained, and the body has been identified by next of kin or authorized agent. It also has provisions on the filing of death certificates, cremation permits, and cremation certificates. 

“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 more cases like that of Kian's. We don’t want the truth to get burnt),” Pangilinan said.

On August 16, 2017, police shot Kian delos Santos in a dark alley near his house in Caloocan City. In November 2018, 3 Caloocan policemen were found guilty of murdering the 17-year-old and were sentenced to reclusion perpetua without eligibility for parole. (READ: TIMELINE: Seeking justice for Kian delos Santos) – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com