De Lima explains Fortun pullout
MANILA, Philippines—A “simple misunderstanding” was what led to forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun’s pullout of her team from Tacloban City.
This was the explanation given to her by the National Bureau of Investigation to explain Fortun’s outburst against the agency, said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
De Lima said she asked NBI Officer in Charge Medardo de Lemos about the incident involving Fortun, whose private team was identifying the dead victims of Supertyphoon Yolanda in Tacloban when Fortun claimed the NBI agents questioned her system for identifying the bodies.
Fortun, a private forensic pathologist who was in Tacloban upon the request of the Department of Health, had said in a television interview that the “message” sent to her by the NBI was that the identification process her team was following was wrong.
“It was just a simple misunderstanding,” De Lima said in a text message to reporters, noting that one of the NBI agents sent to Tacloban to conduct the disaster victim identification (DVI) only told Fortun the agency was “tasked to do the DVI and that was something the NBI had done many times before.”
She said that Fortun may have “misinterpreted” the agent’s statement.
“No one was questioning her way of identification,” De Lima said.
De Lima said the NBI was being assisted by the International Police (Interpol) which has expertise in the DVI process. She said she was awaiting the results of Interpol’s initial assessment of the extent of work involved as well as its recommendations.
“My attitude in situations like this is any and all help from relevant sectors is welcome,” she said, making it clear that the NBI was the lead DVI agency.
She also underscored the need for the NBI to “set up the right processes and protocols for cooperation and optimal efficiency and at the same time avoiding unnecessary friction with others.”
“Per De Lemos, he actually advised the NBI DVI team prior to deployment to avoid any friction with other professional groups,” De Lima said. Christine O. Avendaño