Drilon proposes to increase minimum amount for damages in court for wrongful death

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Sen. Frank Drilon. (Photo courtesy Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed on Tuesday to increase the minimum amount of damages that the court may grant for the wrongful death of a person caused by a crime or negligence.

In Senate Bill No. 1276, Drilon sought 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.

Drilon said that while the old Civil Code, which was enacted in 1949, set the amount for death indemnity to P3,000, the amount has increased in jurisprudence over time to P50,000 in 1990.

The amount remained stagnant, however, at P50,000 until 2013 when the Supreme Court, in People v. Gambao, raised the minimum amount to P100,000.

Drilon noted that while it is clear from the wording of the law and the decisions rendered by the Supreme Court that the amount provided is only the minimum, 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.

Drilon cited as an example the recent decision on the Maguindanao Massacre where the court only granted compensation payout of P100,000 for death indemnity, P100,000 for moral damages, and P100,000 for exemplary 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,” Drilon said.

“Without saying that human life or human suffering has an equivalent price or cost, the indemnity for death should be at least P300,000,” Drilon said.

Quoting from the words of the Court in People v. Oandasan, Drilon explained: “There can be no sufficient reparation or indemnification for loss of a human life which has immeasurable value. However, civil indemnity for death is compensatory in nature and must be adjusted to existing economic realities; otherwise, the objective to justly indemnify the victims will be rendered meaningless.”

Under the same bill, Drilon also sought to set the minimum amount for moral and exemplary damages at P200,000.

Drilon said that Article 2216 of the Civil Code does not provide a minimum amount for moral and exemplary damages and leaves it entirely to the discretion of the courts. Jurisprudence similarly pegs the amount at P100,000.00, he noted.

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. (STACY  ANG/IAMIGO/Currentph.com)

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