By Jose Cielito Reganit

(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved on final reading the bill that requires the proper and immediate burial of Muslims cadavers in accordance with Islamic rites.

House Bill (HB) No. 8925, or the Philippine Islamic Burial Act, was overwhelmingly approved in the plenary with a 234-0 vote.

“This measure seeks to further validate the free exercise of religion enshrined under our constitution by allowing our Muslim brothers and sisters to bury their dead in accordance with their faith’s practice, and free from any prohibition and hindrance,” House Speaker Martin Romualdez said in a statement.

Representatives Manuel Jose Dalipe Wilter Palma, JC Abalos, and Muslim lawmakers Princess Rihan Sakaluran, Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo, Mujiv Hataman, Munir Arbison Jr., Bai Dimple Mastura, Sittie Aminah Dimaporo, , Dimszar Sali, Yasser Alonto Balindog, Zia Alonto Adiong, and Mohamad Paglas authored the bill.

“Nagpapasalamat tayo sa ating mga kasama dito sa Kongreso, lalong lalo na kay Speaker Romualdez, dahil mabilis na naaprubahan ang panukalang ito na kumikilala sa kahalagahan ng pagpapahayag ng pananampalataya ng mga Muslim, partikular sa paglilibing ng mga yumao (We thank our colleagues, especially Speaker Romualdez, because this measure, which recognizes the expression of faith among Muslims, particularly in the burying of the dead, was expeditiously approved),” Hataman said in another statement.

“Sana ay maging batas ito at maiwasan na ang hindi pagre-release sa deceased ng mga ospital dahil lamang di makabayad ng obligasyon o kung ano pa mang dahilan (I hope that this measure becomes law, and avoid delays in the release of the deceased by the hospitals due to failure to immediately pay hospital obligations or any other reason),” he added.

HB 8925 allows for the burial of a Muslim cadaver even without the certificate of death, provided that the person who performed the burial rites, or the nearest of kin of the deceased, shall report the death within 30 days from the date of burial to the local health authority who shall certify the cause of death.

It also requires that the death certificate and the cause of death shall be forwarded to the Local Civil Registrar for its registration within 30 days after the Local Health Officer has duly prepared and certified the same.

The bill prohibits any hospital, medical clinic, funeral parlor, morgue, custodial and prison facilities or other facilities to withhold, or cause directly or indirectly, the withholding of Muslim cadaver patients for reasons of nonpayment, in part or in full, of hospital bills or medical expenses, professional fees and other fees.

“For burial purposes, in accordance with Islamic rites, Muslim cadavers shall be released within 24 hours by the hospital, medical clinic, funeral parlor, morgue, custodial and prison facilities, or other similar facilities, persons who are in actual care, custody of the cadaver,” a portion of the bill read.

“Non-payment of hospital bills, medical expenses, professional fees, cost of wrapping and shipment, or any other charges shall in no case be made as a reason for the withholding of the release and shipment of the cadaver,” it warned.

But the measure nevertheless allows the family of the deceased, or the concerned party, to “execute a promissory note for the unpaid obligation, or any other existing payment scheme acceptable to the other party.”

Should there be “forensic interest,” or requests for autopsy, the bill provides that the family of the deceased must first be informed prior to any examination that may be conducted by law enforcement authorities assigned in the case.

Those who will be found to violate the provisions of the bill — directly or indirectly — stand to suffer “imprisonment of not less than one month, but not more than six months, or a fine of not less than PHP50,000, but not more than PHP100,000, or both, at the discretion of the court.” (PNA)