By JOHLAN F. PROUSABAR
LEGAZPI CITY — Abay 2nd District Representative Al Francis Bichara has filed a bill during the last session of Congress that would require the national government to compensate the years an innocent person has live his life in prison.
In House Bill 1138 authored by Bichara, he sought that persons who were detained but later acquitted or found innocent by an appropriate court’s final judgment will be indemnified by the government at P60,000 per year of detention.
In cases that a person was incorrectly detained for only less than a year, HB 1138 provides that he should still be compensated at P 5,000 per month.
Bichara, also the chairman of the House committee on foreign affairs, argued that “[i]n any imperfect society just like ours, there are people, especially the poor, have been deprived of their liberty wrongfully and at times without due process of law.”
“Worse, there are cases where an accused had been languishing and spending their productive years in jail only to be found out decades later that he was innocent,” Bichara added.
Bichara said that his bill is anchored on the 1986 Constitution’s Bill of Rights, which guarantees the right of every person to life, liberty, and property and to due process of law.
“No one shall be deprived the equal protection of the laws. This Constitutional guarantee of the right to be free, is the most cherished right of any human being,” he said.
The Bicolano lawmaker, however, cautioned that his “bill does not claim to compensate the sufferings, deprivations or trauma caused by erroneous detention, but through this it is hoped that the State will be able to rectify an injustice and redress a wrong.”
Once the bill is enacted into law, a P10 million initial fund will be included in the annual budget of the Department of Justice.
Meanwhile, a similar bill has also been filed in the Senate Senator Loren Legarda.
In Senate Bill 1409, Legarda proposed a much higher compensation of P100,000 for every year an innocent person spent his life in the prison.
Legarda said her bill seeks to indemnify the wrongfully accused person for the loss, injury and damage brought about by the conviction.