Higher payment of damages for wrongful death sought

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Higher payment of damages for wrongful death sought
File photo shows Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
The STAR / Geremy Pintolo, File

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed a bill that seeks to increase the minimum amount of damages imposed by the court to a wrongful death caused by crime or negligence.

In a statement, Drilon said he filed Senate Bill 1276 that seeks to “amend the Civil Code by increasing the minimum amount for death indemnity, whether caused by crime or quasi-delict (negligence) to P300,000 from P3,000.”

A full copy of the bill has yet to be posted on the Senate website as of writing.

Drilon, a former justice chief, noted that in 2013, the Supreme Court in People v. Gambao raised the minimum amount to P100,000, from P50,000 since 1990.

He said that while the wording of the law and jurisprudence put P100,000 as the minimum amount that can be granted, “it has become common practice for our courts to award death indemnity as well as moral and exemplary damages only within the minimum amount.”

"It has been lamented that the gruesome nature of deaths subject of recently decided cases would have warranted a higher award but that courts have been hesitant to depart from the amounts fixed by jurisprudence," Drilon said.

Maguindanao massacre case

The senator cited, in particular, the recent ruling on the gruesome 2009 Maguindanao massacre case. The convicts—including five prominent members of the Ampatuan clan—were directed to pay the families of each victim P100,000 in civil indemnity, P100,000 in moral damages and P100,000 in exemplary damages.

The court granted the plea for actual damages of the death of 12 of the 57 victims. Those who would not be awarded actual damages will be awarded P50,000 in temperate damages.

"We are proposing these amendments to emphasize that the amounts provided in the law are only the minimum and that the courts are empowered to use their discretion in granting a higher amount, based on the rate of inflation and circumstances unique to the case," he said.

Drilon added that indemnity for death should be at least P300,000.

Higher moral, exemplary damages also sought

Under the same proposed measure, the senator also sought to increase the minimum amount for moral and exemplary damages at P200,000.

“Moral damages are awarded to compensate for physical suffering, mental anguish, serious anxiety, besmirched reputation, wounded feelings and social humiliation. Exemplary damages are imposed by way of example or correction for highly outrageous or reprehensible conduct and to vindicate undue suffering,” the statement read.

Drilon said that the Civil Code does not set a minimum amount for moral and exemplary damages but jurisprudence pegs the amount at P100,000.

Some of the kin of Maguindanao massacre victims have sought higher damages at the Court of Appeals.

Lawyer Harry Roque earlier said they would appeal the damages awarded to 17 of victims’ families as they feel they should be given “substantially more.”

“For instance, moral damages should not just be 100,000 given the state of the remains of the victims’ loved ones when they identified them at the crime scene,” he said.

Roque added: “Civil indemnity should be more than 100,000 as human lives should cost more than this. And exemplary damages should be more than 100,000 to send the message that the State will not tolerate the killing of journalists.”

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