Senator Santiago files bill increasing death liability
Saying that it seems cheaper to kill than to injure a person under civil law, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has proposed an increase in the damages to be awarded for death caused by a crime or negligence.
Santiago filed a bill seeking to amend the Civil Code by increasing the amount of damages for death caused by a crime or negligence (quasi delict) to at least P500,000, even though there may have been mitigating circumstances.
Santiago noted that when the Civil Code was approved in 1950, the minimum amount for actual or compensatory damages for death due to a crime or negligence was pegged at P3,000. Current jurisprudence has since fixed the indemnity for death at P50,000, subject to increase due to aggravating circumstances, she added.
Still, she said this amount could no longer be considered just indemnification for a victim’s heirs, since the damages for death were far lower than the liability that a person could incur if the victim was only seriously physically injured and incapacitated.
She warned that in such a situation, some might opt to kill victims rather than leave them injured.
“In situations where injury has been caused due to reckless imprudence, the discrepancy of the damages may incentivize one to ensure the death of the victim rather than attempt to save his life,” she said in her explanatory note to her bill, filed last week.
Santiago cited the Supreme Court’s affirmation of the award of damages to a road accident victim, who was left permanently incapacitated. The victim was awarded P2.97 million for actual damages, P23.46 million for actual life care costs, P10 million for loss of earning capacity, and P4 million for moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees.
But in another Supreme Court case, an accused found guilty of one count of homicide and one count of murder was ordered to pay much smaller amounts.
The accused was asked to shell out P186,319.59 by way of civil indemnity, reimbursement of burial expenses, moral and exemplary damages for homicide, and P130,000 by way of civil indemnity, moral and exemplary damages for murder.
“The discrepancy between these two cases is unconscionable and must be addressed by proper legislation,” Santiago said.
She also took note of the “urban myth” that bus drivers who hit or ran over pedestrians would return to ensure they were dead so that they would have a smaller monetary liability.
“In order to give justice to the deceased and his heirs, as well as to disincentivize killing, it is proper to drastically increase the minimum civil liability for death caused by crime or quasi delict,” she added.
Aside from increasing the amount of damages, her bill also states that the defendant should be liable for the loss of earning capacity of the deceased. The indemnity should be paid to the victim’s heirs.
The court should also assess and award the indemnity in such case, except if the deceased, because of a permanent physical disability not caused by the defendant, had no earning capacity at the time of death.
The spouse, legitimate and illegitimate descendants and ascendants of the deceased may also demand moral damages for mental anguish caused by the death, according to the bill.
If the deceased is providing support to somebody who is not an heir, the recipient may in certain circumstances demand support from the person who caused the death for a maximum period of five years. The court will fix the exact duration.
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