Garin questions legality of PAO forensics arm

ILOILO Representative Janette Garin on Wednesday, September 11, questioned the legality of the creation of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Forensics Division, saying there is no provision under the PAO Law that gives the agency the power to conduct forensic examination.

During the plenary deliberation on the proposed budget of the Department of Justice (DoJ), Garin asked House appropriations vice chairperson and Compostela Valley 2nd District Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga as to the mandate of the PAO.

“The PAO shall be principal law office of the government in extending free legal assistance to indigent persons in criminal civil labor administrative and other quasi-judicial cases. That is the mandate of the Public Attorney’s Office, Mr. Speaker,” Gonzaga, the sponsor of the DoJ’s budget said.

Garin then asked if PAO is mandated by the law, Republic Act 9406, to create a forensic laboratory.

“In this mandate, there is none, Mr. Speaker,” Gonzaga responded.

This was not the first time that the legality of the PAO Forensics Division headed by Dr. Erwin Erfe was questioned.

Lawmakers questioned the basis for the creation of the said division during the hearing of the House appropriations committee on the DoJ’s proposed budget last week.

Further in the interpellation, Garin cited the statement of Interior Secretary General Eduardo Año during the House appropriations panel’s deliberation into the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s budget that in the courts, the only acceptable forensic results are the results coming from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) forensic laboratory.

To further stress her point, Garin presented to the plenary PAO’s findings contradicting the NBI’s findings in the case of 17-year-old Kian Delos Santos.

She said that in the NBI’s findings, it was stated that two bullets entered the body of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos, while PAO’s findings stated that the victim sustained three gunshot wounds.

To recall, Delos Santos was killed during an anti-drug operation in Caloocan in August 2017.

“The Department of Justice being composed of many lawyers would know that this has a lot of implication with regards to the cases,” said Garin.

Garin has asked the DoJ to find out who gave the correct forensic results on the case of Delos Santos.

Garin also disclosed before the plenary the contradicting findings of the PNP’s crime laboratory and the PAO in the murder case of Christine Lee Silawan of Cebu.

The PNP said she was not raped and that there were no traces of mixed DNA found on her private parts but PAO’s finings said she was raped and they found abrasions and sign of hematoma on the victim’s private parts.

PAO also said the suspect is the boyfriend, contradicting the PNP’s claim that the suspect is Renato Llenes.

“Napakalaki po ng sampal na ito sa ating gobyerno (This is a big slap on the face of our government),” Garin said.

“Kawawa naman po yung disi-syete anyos na boyfriend na kinulong dahil lang po sa mali-maling sinasabi ng Public Attorney’s Office (I pity the 17-year-old boyfriend who was detained because of the erroneous statements of the Public Attorney’s Office),” she added.

She also cited the differences between the findings of PAO and the PNP in the case of Reynaldo “Kulot” de Guzman where the PAO confirmed that the body, found in a river in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, was indeed de Guzman even as the PNP stated otherwise as the DNA of the cadaver did not match the DNA of Reynaldo’s parents.

At the end of the interpellation, Garin asked for a comprehensive report on the source of funds for the equipment for the PAO forensics laboratory and for the travels of Dr. Erfe.

She also asked the agency to study if it could combine PAO’s Forensic Division with the NBI to be headed by “qualified experts,” “just to put order in the house.”

Of the P21.8-billion proposed 2020 budget of the DoJ, P4.2 billion or 2.3 percent was allotted for PAO.

The period of sponsorship and debate on the proposed budget of the DoJ was terminated past 10:30 p.m. (JNC/SunStar Philippines)


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