HOUSE LAWMAKERS from the progressive Makabayan bloc have filed a bill that seeks to include fragile health and advanced age as grounds for the provisional release of an accused person in a criminal case.

House Bill 10535 or the proposed Antonio Molina Act of 2021 would amend sections of Republic Act 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012.

Antonio Molina was a 67-year old political prisoner who died from stomach cancer on Nov. 18 at the Puerto Princesa City Jail. Motions for his release on humanitarian grounds were denied by the Puerto Princesa Regional Trial Court Branch 51, which was later reversed in a Nov. 15 ruling.

Human rights group Karapatan said that his death showed “double standards” as high-profile individuals such as former first lady Imelda Romuáldez Marcos remain free despite being guilty of corruption charges.

“The bill seeks to make the Constitutional right to bail or recognizance more accessible not only those who have less in life, but also those who are entitled to it. It aims to lessen the burden on the courts in determining who is entitled the right to be granted bail or released on recognizance,” reads part of the proposed law.

Under the existing law, recognizance refers to the release of a person in custody who is unable to post bail due to poverty.

The measure seeks to expand the conditions for recognizance to include advanced age, which usually refers to persons at least 65 years old, and fragile conditions such as pregnancy where imprisonment would pose a health risk to an expecting mother and her fetus.

To determine a person’s fragile health, the applicant should show medical diagnosis or records that would indicate that incarceration would endanger their health or life.

The bill also seeks to remove pending criminal cases which have higher or the same penalty to a new crime that the person is accused of as a disqualification for release on recognizance.

The Makabayan lawmakers said that the proposed law would also help decongest prisons and correctional facilities nationwide.

“Taking care of the sickly and elderly persons deprived of liberty is a heavy burden on the penal system that can be unloaded to (their) families,” they said. — Russell Louis C. Ku