Drilon removes PAO’s budget for forensic lab

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon told Public Attorney’s Office () to hire more lawyers instead of operating a forensic laboratory department.

PAO protests an insertion made in the Senate’s version of the 2021 budget bill, which would stop the PAO’s forensic laboratory division operations.

Senators Franklin Drilon and Sonny Angara supposedly made the provision.

Drilon admitted he made the proposed provision and said the forensic lab duplicates the functions of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police (PNP). The two law enforcement agencies are authorized to conduct forensic exams.

Like the NBI, PAO is also an attached agency of the Department of Justice.

“Instead of duplicating the functions of the NBI and the PNP, PAO should use the funds to hire more lawyers to assist indigents with legal problems,” Drilon said.

“It is a verbatim reproduction of a similar provision in the present 2020 GAA (General Appropriations Act), which the President approved,” the senator said when asked if he thinks Duterte would veto the provision.

PAO said Drilon’s provision states that not a single cent in the budget bill could be used to operate PAO’s forensic laboratory division, including the salary of personnel, travel allowance, and other expenses.

The provision is “illegal, despotic, whimsical, vindictive, and unconstitutional,” the PAO said.

Drilon to PAO: Hire more lawyers instead of operating forensic lab

In 2019, Drilon also pushed for the removal of budget allocation for PAO’s forensic laboratory division.

PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta challenged the insertion, asking at a press conference if Drilon’s move aims to suppress her office’s evidence-gathering in the cases.

The forensic laboratory department has examined the bodies of over a hundred children who died allegedly after getting the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

The children’s parents have filed criminal complaints against the Dengvaxia manufacturer and health officials in charge of the immunization program.

According to the Department of Health, the alleged link between the vaccine and the children’s deaths has not been proven. Some medical experts also criticized the PAO for its autopsies.