Editorial: Don’t hold the dead captive

The observance of Kalagkalag (All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1, 2022 and All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2) should be a reminder that death cannot be avoided. All people die at some point in the future; people die every day, including today.

When death comes into a family, securing the services of a funeral home cannot be avoided. This is why establishing a chain of funeral homes is a lucrative business. There is money in death.

A well-to-do family has no problems in paying the services of a funeral home; however, this is not the case for a family that’s struggling to make both ends meet—it has to seek financial help from the government or charitable institutions, or it has to take out a loan so it can give a decent burial for its departed kin.

There are funeral parlors that reportedly withhold the release of cadavers on grounds of nonpayment of embalming and other expenses, the Philippine News Agency reported.

This prompted Makati Rep. Luis Campos Jr. to file House Bill 1292 to end this practice, which he described as “shameful and anti-poor,” and “cruel and inhuman.”

This practice, he said, “should be condemned by Congress.”

Under Campos’ bill, funeral homes and morgues are outlawed from withholding the release of a cadaver directly or indirectly for the kin’s failure to settle the cost of mortuary services.

Any employee or officer of a funeral home or morgue who withholds the release of a cadaver to use it as security for payment of mortuary services would face up to six months in prison including a fine of up to P50,000.

The bill states that surviving family members who are unable to pay any funeral home charges will be allowed to claim the remains of their dead relative, complete with all the necessary release papers, by simply executing a promissory note with a comaker, a person who jointly signs a check, draft or any other negotiable instrument alongside a primary borrower of a loan. The comaker acts as a guarantor of the primary borrower and assumes liability (law.cornell.edu).

Campos’ bill is clearly a pro-poor legislation. It is not entirely against the business of funeral home owners; it just seeks not to demean the dead and the grieving poor family. Holding the dead captive is cold-blooded behavior.