Severe punishment vs vultures preying on hapless victims of tragedies sought

A LAWMAKER is urging Congress to classify as heinous crime all acts of looting, stealing from and desecrating the bodies of victims during or in the aftermath of natural or man-made calamities and accidents.

“A totally unpardonable crime, such inhumane acts deserve the severest of punishments,” said Rep. Augusto Syjuco (2nd District, Iloilo), author of House Bill 1624 now under consideration by the Committee on Justice chaired by Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr. (5th District, Iloilo).

Syjuco said it is incomprehensible that in a supposedly civilized democratic society, some people still have the guts to take advantage of their fellowmen already suffering from misfortunes or tragedies.

One chilling and tragic incident, Syjuco recalled, is the Ozone Disco fire on March 18, 1996 that torched to death a horde of young people, considered one of the worst fire incidents in the country.

“It was tragic enough that the accident was the direct result of criminal negligence on the part of the licensing and supervising officials of the government but even more tragic is the ghoulish and heinous acts of those vultures who preyed on and pillaged the hapless victims of their valuables, desecrated their bodies and robbed them of vital body organs for the malicious purposes of some funeral parlors,” the Iloilo lawmaker recalled.

Section 3 of HB 1624 states: “In case of accidents, the penalty of prision correctional (6 months and one day to six years) and/or a fine ranging from P50,000 to P100,000 at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed upon any person who shall commit the crime of looting or stealing as defined under this Act.”

“In cases of natural and man-made calamities, the penalty of prision mayor (6 years and one day to 12 years) in its maximum period and/or a fine ranging from P100,000 to P300,000, at the discretion of the court, shall be imposed upon any person who shall commit the crime of looting or stealing as defined under this Act.”

Likewise, “The penalty of prision mayor (6 years and one day to 12 years) shall be imposed upon any person who shall commit the crime of desecration of the victim.” Desecrating the victim shall refer to taking away vital organs, or the corpse itself for profit and illegal exhumation of dead bodies in cemeteries, among others enumerated in the proposed law.

In case the offender is a government employee/officer/official, a person in authority, as defined in Article 152 of the Revised Penal Code, or a law enforcement officer, the penalty is reclusion perpetua (12 years and one day to 20 years) shall be imposed.

The bill also provides that any person caught in possession of the property of the victim/deceased at the vicinity of the accident or in possession of the organs of the victim shall be presumed to have committed the crime of looting, stealing or desecrating as defined in HB 1624.

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