Our dearly departed deserve a decent, dignified burial.
That is the greatest parting gift, the ultimate universal tribute to all those who have passed into the next world.
For some, however, even such minimum arrangement for the final resting place of a deceased person is hopelessly out of reach.
Therefore, the state has to come in and provide some form of assistance to those who cannot afford.
This is not purely for charity or compassion; rather, it is for health.
This is because the remains of the deceased cannot indefinitely be kept or stored for personal, medical, or financial reasons without endangering public health and safety.
And so we agree with and support Senator Grace Poe in filing measures to uphold the rights of the deceased, marking the longstanding tradition of Filipinos’ respect for the faithful departed.
Senate Bill 1229 or the proposed Burial Assistance Act of 2016 seeks to expand the burial assistance program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development by mandating burial assistance to indigent decedents whose bodies remain unclaimed or unidentified, regardless of the cause of death, whether crime-related or not.
Burial assistance as defined under Poe’s bill shall include sums and services that cover the costs of the casket or urn, embalming, cremation, and other related services such as viewing or wake cost, pick-up from the hospital morgue, and transport of the body to the intended burial site, but in no case shall exceed P10,000 or its adjusted value after every six years.
The bill also mandates the DSWD to expedite the processing of burial assistance by refusing to treat the lack of documentation as a ground to deny or withhold assistance.
Meanwhile, Poe also filed SB 1228 seeking to amend Section 95 (b) of Presidential Decree 856 or the Code on Sanitation of the Philippines and mandating that an autopsy be conducted on a minor who may have probably died due to foul play or apparent neglect and on a person who died due to apparent irregular or suspicious causes.
Such is not provided under the existing law.
Poe’s legislation also seeks to prohibit the parent, guardian, or next of kin of a deceased minor to sign a waiver against conducting an autopsy except for religious grounds, provided that this is substantiated by a document evidencing the religion of the deceased.
“Justice should be afforded to the dead, whether unidentified or unclaimed, or whether he or she is a minor, especially when such death is due to suspicious circumstances,” Poe said in her bill.