PAO temporarily suspends forensic activity amid defunding issue
MANILA, Philippines—The Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Monday announced the temporary suspension of its “forensic activity” pending President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision whether or not to veto the budget cut of P19. 5 million intended for the upgrade of its forensic laboratory and equipment.
“We will leave the future of the PAO Forensic Laboratory in the hands of the President,” PAO Forensic Laboratory Director, Atty. Erwin Erfe, said in a statement.
“Not to some members of the House and Se ate who protect the interests of their principals and clients by orchestrating defunding of the laboratory, disabling it and preventing the PAO Forensic Laboratory from helping the poor, and the victims of crimes,” he stressed.
PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta earlier sought the President’s veto of the special provision of the General Appropriations Bill for the 2020 budget that removes the funding from its existing forensic laboratory.
The provision also restricts PAO from using its maintenance and other operating expenses budget “to the effect that no funds may be used for the meetings and other maintenance and operating expenses of the PAO Forensic Laboratory.”
In appealing for Duterte’s veto, PAO argued that the provision is “unconstitutional” for being violative of Art. 3 Sec. 1 of the 1987 Constitution which states that: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.”
The office insisted that its clients in conflict with the National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police “would be deprived of access to justice.”
The provision also violates Sec. 9 of the Anti-Torture Act, which gave PAO the power to investigate torture cases, PAO noted.
“If law enforcers or NBI men are the respondents, where will the poor people seek forensic services if there is a conflict of interest,” PAO said, citing the Dengvaxia mess and the cases of minors like Kian de los Santos, Carl Arnaiz and Kulot de Guzman.
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