Drilon wants no funding for PAO forensic lab
MANILA, Philippines — The forensics laboratory of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) may have to face abolition as Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Monday that he would move to transfer its P19.5 million proposed funding to another agency.
During the Senate finance sub-committee hearing on the proposed budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Drilon said the creation of PAO’s forensic laboratory was “unauthorized” and a “clear duplication” of functions already being performed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“It is my view…that the forensics laboratory is a clear duplication of the functions of the NBI and the police who have not been shown inefficient and incompetent,” Drilon said. “The fact that there is a forensic laboratory exposes us to a situation where there could be conflicting findings from two government agencies.”
Before this, PAO chief Persida Acosta faced a grilling from the senator over the creation of the forensics laboratory.
Acosta had repeatedly told the Senate panel that the forensic laboratory was created by virtue of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2019.
She said that the Department of Budget Management (DBM) “continuously” allowed the creation of positions in the agency, which included the hiring of personnel for its forensic laboratory.
“By virtue of the General Appropriations Act, which is a law, the DBM was empowered to create positions,” she said.
But Drilon countered this and said the GAA is a “yearly allocation.”
This would mean, he explained, that if Congress does not “re-enact new appropriations or delete said allocation in the new appropriations, that office — since it was created only under the budget — will have to be abolished.”
“If you are asserting that an office can be created, simply by an appropriation in the General Appropriation Act, necessarily, you will accept the proposition that that same office is abolished when there is no longer any appropriation,” the senator told Acosta.
As Drilon further pursued his point, tension arose when Acosta’s answers to the senator’s question had not been responsive.
The senator, at one point, even raised his voice and told Acosta to “Wait!” after the PAO chief continued to talk over him.
This then led to a two-minute suspension of the hearing.
“We’ll take a two-minute break in the committee. I think its’ called for. We need a cooling down period,” Sen. Sonny Angara, chair of the committee, said.
When the panel resumed its hearing, Drilon said: “I will move that the forensics lab of the PAO office not be funded and the same be transferred to NBI.”
In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Drilon said the transfer of the proposed funding to the NBI would augment the agency’s crime laboratory.
“It [PAO’s forensic laboratory] has been operating without any authority, except the budget which, as I said, will expire every year,” he pointed out. “If we do not redo it, the operations of that agency, meaning the crime lab, should seize.”
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