Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to ensure that the rights of victims of crime and that of their families are protected, especially concerning their safety during the entire procedure of the court trial until its final resolution.
De Lima, a known human rights defender, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1503 which proposes that victims should also be entitled to justice and due process since the bill of rights under Article 3 of the 1987 Constitution is limited for the benefit of the accused.
“Crime victims are also entitled to justice and due process. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They are dependent upon the proper functioning of government and the criminal justice system,” she said.
The former justice secretary explained that there are specific provisions in the present Constitution which provide and ensure the rights of any citizens who have been accused of committing a crime.
“Absent in the enumeration of the most important rights of our citizens are those applicable to persons and their families who have been victimized by crime,” she pointed out.
The proposed measure, also known as Victims Bill of Rights Act 2017, has proposed 17 rights for crime victims and their families. Among them are the following rights, to wit:
- the right to be treated with fairness and respect for his or her privacy;
- the right to be informed about the status of the investigations and criminal proceedings;
- the right to be protected from the offender and persons acting on behalf of the offender;
- the right to be heard in all the proceedings involving the offender
- the right concerning their safety and interests before any pre- or post-trial release of the offender, among others.
“Thus, to ensure that legitimate rights available to crime victims are upheld and enforced, this measure seeks to enact their bill of rights,” De Lima said, adding that the measure specifies during which the rights apply, the individuals who may exercise the rights, and how the Victims Bill of Rights is to be interpreted.
The Senator from Bicol noted that the passage of the measure protecting and safeguarding the rights of crime victims and their families has become so urgent as several people have fallen victims to extrajudicial and summary killings in the past year.
“With thousands of families now mourning the death of their loved ones and seeking justice for those extrajudicially killed in the course of current administration’s bloody war on drugs, it is high time for Congress to enact a comprehensive statute which enshrines rights available to them as crime victims,” she said.
It may be recalled that since the all-out war on illegal drugs has commenced in July last year, more than 8,000 people have already been killed – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style executions.
The victim’s families however have refused to report and cooperate with law enforcement authorities for fear of their own safety or to avoid being subjected to any forms of intimidation, harassment, and abuse from the offending party or its representatives.
Under SB 1503, any person who will deny or prevent a victim from exercising any of the rights stipulated under the proposed measure shall be meted with a maximum jail term of six years without prejudice to other criminal and administrative charges.