Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a bill proposing for a substantial increase on fines by those who would tamper with birth and death certificates as she noted that the law in question has not been updated in more than four decades.
Last Feb. 3, De Lima filed Senate Bill 1305, which seeks to amend Section 9 of Presidential Decree (PD) 651 and adjust for inflation the measly fines, starting from PhP500.00 to PhP1,000.00, as required by the archaic law.
“In 2017, the 17th Congress enacted Republic Act. No. 10951, which adjusted for inflation various penalties and fines imposed under the Revised Penal Code (RPC) to ensure that the level of punishment will remain commensurate to the crimes,” she said.
“This bill proposes to increase the penalty for failure to register or falsification of the civil status of persons, with a fine ranging from PhP40,000.00 to PhP1,200,000.00,” she added.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, noted that birth and death certificates are important not only for records or proper documentation but also for its probative value – wherein civil registry records are deemed as _prima facie_ evidence in Courts and other government offices.
“The importance of maintaining the integrity of our civil registry cannot be overstated – aside from documenting our citizens, its probative value requires its sanctity be eternally preserved,” De Lima, a lawyer, said.
“Under this bill, the fine under PD No. 651 will be made at par with correctional penalties under the RPC pursuant to RA 10951,”
Last November, De Lima filed a resolution urging her colleagues to investigate the growing babies-for-sale trade in the Philippines.
The modus operandi of those who thrive on these crimes involves faking or tampering the birth certificates of newborn babies so that they can sell them to desperate individuals or couples seeking for a child. Worse, babies bought by syndicates are taken to child sex and prostitution rings.
De Lima, the most prominent critic of the brutal implementation of the “war on drugs” that left more than 20,000 Filipinos killed, called out the alleged practice of some individuals tampering with death certificates of the victims in order to hide the real cause of their demise.
The Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) reported that there are families who find it difficult to file legal cases because the victims have been given death certificates with erroneous or insufficient details regarding the death of the victim.
PAHRA also revealed that informants also described funeral parlors encouraged families to waive their right to demand an autopsy.
Others were convinced to allow the death certificate to not state the real cause of death of the victim, and to not use any death-related documents to file cases.
Urging her colleagues to act on the urgency of her measure, De Lima recalled the words of lawyer Jose C. Sison, who emphasized on the importance of these documents in judicial proceedings.
“[Civil Registry Documents] are valuable aids not only in expediting the tedious proceedings of evidence presentation but also necessary and useful tools in the quest for truth and justice,” she said, quoting Sison.
“The integrity of these documents must be maintained so that their great probative value can at all times be preserved,” she added. (senate.gov.ph)