Arroyos: Strengthen safeguards for crime victims

LAWMAKERS urged the passage of the proposed “Magna Carta for Crime Victims of 2012” contained in HB 6599 to ensure protection for crime victims.

“While the Bill of Rights guarantees protection of persons accused of crimes, we lament the absence of clear safeguards protecting the crime victims,” author Rep. Diosdado ‘Dato’ Macapagal Arroyo and co-author Rep.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared.

The Arroyos noted that the 1987 Constitution provides that “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.”

“The existence of the Bill of Rights guarantees this and protects persons accused of an alleged crime. But crime victims, on the other hand, are not provided with the same safeguards so that damage or injury is minimized,”
the Arroyos said.

“Most of the time these victims suffer physical and psychological trauma, which is why they should be treated with respect, compassion, and dignity
throughout the criminal justice process,” Dato Arroyo stressed.

HB 6599 seeks to codify certain rights of crime victims, prescribes the duties of responsible officers and provides penalties for violations of its provisions as protection to those most severely affected by crime, the helpless victim/s.

It is the policy of the State to provide protection and assistance to victims of crime and ensure that no further harm and damage is inflicted on them during the entire prosecution of cases, the authors said.

HB 6599 provides that officers and employees of the Department of Justice and other departments and agencies of the government engaged in the detention, investigation, or prosecution of crime shall exert their best efforts to ensure that victims of crimes are accorded the rights as enumerated in the proposed measure.

The rights of victims enumerated under the measure include the right to be treated with respect for the victims’ dignity and privacy where a responsible official shall inform the victim of the place where the victim
may receive emergency medical and social services.

The victim should also be informed of any restitution or other relief to which he may be entitled under the law and in the manner in which such relief may be obtained.

The victims should also be informed of private and public programs available for counselling, treatment, and other forms of support, and assist the victim in contacting the persons who are responsible for providing the services and reliefs described in the proposed measure.

Another is the right of the victim to be reasonably protected from the accused. A responsible official shall arrange for a victim to receive reasonable protection from the accused and persons acting in concert with
or at the behest of the accused.

Victims should also be notified of the status of the investigation and prosecution of the crime, and the right to information about the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment, and release of the accused, among others.

Any responsible official, as defined under the proposed Act, who fails, either willfully or negligently, and regardless of good faith, to perform the duties imposed in the Act, shall be penalized with not less than six
months imprisonment and not more than one year imprisonment.

“This is without prejudice to any administrative case which may be filed against said official,” the authors said.

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