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PAO urges Duterte to reject removal of budget for its forensic lab

/ 05:46 PM December 13, 2019

MANILA, Philippines–The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) had asked President Rodrigo Duterte to reject the special provision of the general appropriations bill for the 2020 budget removing the funding from its existing forensic laboratory.

PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta said the President should “veto the inserted special provision in the General Appropriations Bill, limiting the PAO in the use of its MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) and prohibiting the use of funds for the meetings and other maintenance and operating expenses of the PAO Forensic Laboratory Division, which is presently composed of eight plantilla personnel.”

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Under the 2020 National Expenditure Program (NEP) of the President and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), P19.5-million supposed to be allotted for the purchase of additional equipment for the PAO’s forensic laboratory has been deleted.

The General Appropriations Act also inserted a special provision limiting the use of the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) to the effect that no funds may be used for the maintenance and operation of the PAO Forensic Laboratory.

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“These modifications in the President’s budget or the NEP (National Expenditure Program) have only one objective – to paralyze the PAO Forensic Laboratory and jeopardize its operations, depriving them the opportunity to assist the clients of the PAO,” PAO officials said in the letter which was signed by the PAO Chief, and seven other officials of the PAO, namely, Deputy Chiefs Silvestre Mosing and Ana Lisa Soriano; regional chiefs Marlon Buan of National Capital Region (NCR) and Revelyn Ramos-Dacpano of Region 4b or MIMAROPA; administrative service chief Demiteer Huerta; and legal service chief Ronald Jerome Nieves.

“We most humbly submit that the deletion of the budget for the PAO Forensic Laboratory Division’s equipment, and the prohibition for the use of funds for its operations run contrary to the constitution, the law, and the proprietary rights of its eight (8) complement plantilla personnel,” the PAO said.

“Notably, the PAO Forensic Laboratory Division’s most controversial case as of the moment is the Dengvaxia controversy, which involves the purchase and indiscriminate mass vaccination without informed consent and proper screening of the experimental vaccine Dengvaxia by the Department of Health (DOH), spearheaded during the term of the former administration, with now Congresswoman Janette L. Garin as then DOH Secretary,” it stated.

“We cannot help but wonder whether the modifications introduced by the minority in Congress is an act averse to the PAO’s and this administration’s efforts in giving justice to the Dengvaxia victims and impose liability upon the government officials responsible for the untimely deaths, illnesses, and exposure to the systemic risks of Dengvaxia, of their children – at the expense of the PAO’s existing and future clients composed of victims of torture, rape, VAWC (violence against women and children), physical injuries, and mysterious deaths and cases, as well as the accused in criminal cases,” the PAO added.

“You, Mr. President, are the only hope not only of PAO but of our millions of poor, downtrodden and oppressed clients who, more often than not, feel that justice remains to be elusive because of their dire financial state, which prevents them from fully presenting their cases in court,” read the letter.

In November 2016, the House of Representatives, spearheaded by the Committee on Health, started a probe on Dengvaxia and found that the experimental anti-dengue vaccine had adverse effects on some of the children who were vaccinated.

In 2018, PAO’s Forensic Laboratory conducted an autopsy on five children who reportedly died months after they were injected with Dengvaxia. While declaring that its findings were inconclusive, PAO said it found “strong links” between Dengvaxia and the deaths of the five children.

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As of 2019, PAO said it has autopsied 149 persons who received shots of Dengvaxia.

RELATED STORY: PAO chief Acosta dismayed over transfer of P19.5 M forensic lab budget to NBI

Edited by MUF
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TAGS: 2020, budget, Dengvaxia, forensic, PAO, PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta
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