IT’S time the Philippine National Police be given a leeway in determining whether a person should be charged with a criminal offense or not.
This is particularly needed in cases involving car accidents. I see no reason why a motorist who injures or fatally hits a pedestrian should be automatically charged with physical injuries or homicide through reckless imprudence even if the pedestrian is at fault. For instance, many who got hit by cars on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City, were jaywalkers who tried to outrun vehicles. The car drivers end up shouldering the hospital bills of the injured or the funeral services of the fatality if they don’t want to end up in jail or to undergo an expensive, protracted legal battle.
A few years back, a truck driver in Davao was thrown into jail after a tricycle driver, racing with another, intruded onto his lane. The truck driver had the right of way. The tricycle driver was obviously at fault, so why should the truck driver suffer?
I had a nephew who was charged with homicide after his jeep collided with a car that was overtaking another in a curve. It didn’t matter that the victim was a minor without a driver’s license. In the eyes of the law, he was the victim so my nephew had to pay. In the final analysis, my nephew was the real victim. He had to borrow money for his court case.
This mindset has to change. A very careful driver shouldn’t be made answerable should some reckless driver or foolhardy pedestrian disregard his own safety on the road. There’s no reason why the safety-conscious driver should be spending a day in jail, or paying for unwarranted expenses just because there are others who don’t care whether they get injured or not. And when the careful driver seeks a police clearance, that vehicular accident will mercilessly come up to torture him further.
If a person gets hurt or gets killed by a decidedly innocent motorist, the innocent should immediately go scot-free. This could be done by giving police investigators the authority to determine whether the motorist involved should be charged or not. When the facts show the injured/killed pedestrian or driver was at fault, then the other party need no longer prove his innocence in court.
In many states in the United States, a motorist who runs over a pedestrian who’s not using a crosswalk or pedestrian lane in a major thoroughfare does not have any criminal liability. Oh, yes, in malls and other public places, motorists always give way to pedestrians.
Speaking of laws in the US, a homeowner in Nevada who kills an armed intruder is not automatically charged with the equivalent of homicide in Philippine penal code. The police investigator can let the homeowner go scot-free if he finds out that self-defense is involved.
The case stops at the police end. The same procedure holds true in other cases of justifiable self-defense. If only the Philippine justice system could follow this tact, it will be saving an innocent man a lot of time and money from going to the courts and getting legal counsel to prove he wasn’t at fault.
While we are at reforming the justice system, our legislators should now take a second look at Republic Act 9344 or the Juvenile Justice and Welfare System. This is arguably one of the more meaningful pieces of social legislation passed by Congress. However, it concentrated too much on the age of the offender and ignored the gravity of the offense committed. Under RA 9344, youthful offenders below 15 years old are exempted from criminal liability regardless of the seriousness of the offense as they are presumed to have acted without discernment.
The guiding rule should be this: a minor who commits adult crime should serve adult time.
Actually, there was a meaningful reform measure approved by the House on third and final reading in the 15th Congress but it got watered down in the bicameral conference committee. That bill sought to declare that a child charged with murder, parricide, homicide, kidnapping, rape, robbery, drug trafficking or other offenses punishable by more than 12 years in jail shall be presumed to have acted with discernment.
The minor may be required to comply with certain conditions while in DSWD custody if he’s below 18. Should he fail, he would be returned to the committing court for the imposition of the appropriate penalty upon reaching 18 years of age.