Citing duplication of the forensic works of government investigative bodies, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday recommended a stop to the funding of the Forensic Division of the Public Attorney’s Office, which has a P19.5-million budget.
“In my view, your forensic laboratory has no basis in law,” Drilon said.
“It is not authorized by your own charter. It is a mere duplication of the functions of our investigative bodies which have not been shown to be inefficient and incompetent.”
But amid the threat to remove the funds for its forensic laboratory, the Public Attorney’s Office said Tuesday the Budget and Justice departments had supported the facility’s creation.
PAO chief Persida Acosta said “by virtue of the PAO Law, the PAO fortified its commitment once more to the indigent clients of the PAO with the launching of the PAO’s own Forensic Laboratory.”
She said the purchase of equipment for the forensic laboratory came from the PAO’s budget prescribed under the General Appropriations Act.
During the budget hearing of the Justice department and its attached agencies, including the PAO late Monday, Drilon said the PAO did not have the proper authority and mandate to create its own forensic unit to investigate and file cases related to the alleged dengvaxia-related deaths, even if private health experts and the Department of Health officials questioned the PAO’s findings.
He said the creation of the unit was not only unauthorized but also fraught with danger. With Rio N. Araja
“The problem is, you want to be the NBI by putting up your forensic laboratory. Doctor ka na, pulis ka pa,” Drilon told PAO chief Persida Acosta, who throughout the hearing appeared evasive and was speaking too fast.
That also prompted the chairman of the committee, Senator Sonny Angara, to interject and ask her to answer Drilon’s questions directly.
Drilon said that in cases of conflicting forensic results by government bodies, including the relatively inexperienced PAO forensic laboratory, “the administration of justice may be put in jeopardy.”
Drilon also vowed to transfer PAO’s P19.5-million budget to the National Bureau of Investigation instead to improve its crime laboratory.
“I will propose at the appropriate time to remove the budget for the forensic laboratory from PAO and have it transferred to the NBI where it properly belongs, so it can augment its crime laboratory,” Drilon said.
Acosta defended her agency’s move by enumerating a number of laws, including the 2019 General Appropriations Act, as her basis for creating a separate unit for forensic investigation.
But Drilon, his former boss in the Justice department, was quick to point out that nothing in the laws that she enumerated authorized the creation of a forensic unit, not even its own charter.
Drilon said only the Constitution and an act of Congress could create a public office.
“A public office can only be created by law. You cannot create an office through the GAA,” he told Acosta. With Rio N. Araja