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House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco has been asked to oppose any attempts to limit the use of the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of the 2021 budget of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO).

PAO Chief Persida Acosta made the appeal in the letter she sent to Velasco last month following restrictions in the PAO’s MOOE in its 2020 budget.

“We implore upon Your Honor that the PAO Forensic Laboratory created pursuant to law and by authority of law be recognized and respected; and that any amendment undermining PAO’s investigative mandate and suppressing full legal assistance to its clients be denied,” Acosta urged Velasco.

She also warned that limiting PAO’s forensic services will “result to deprivation of effective legal representation in court through stringent evidence-gathering.”

Acosta lamented that Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin has already questioned the budget allotment to the PAO Forensic Laboratory which the legislator claimed was illegally established and not part of the mandate of the PAO.

The PAO chief reminded that Garin is facing cases filed by families of Dengvaxia victims who are being represented by the PAO.

“Expectedly, Hon. Garin would allege the illegality of the PAO Forensic Laboratory and PAO forensic services, and further argue against the credibility of Dr. [Erwin] Erfe, as a defense to countermeasure to the cases filed against her; but sadly, at the risk of genuine public service and full legal assistance to PAO’s clientele through budget constraints,” she said.

Contrary to what Garin claimed, Acosta said that PAO’s forensics laboratory is part of her office’s mandated under Republic Act 9406, the PAO Law.

“Forensic services is for the purpose of investigation, evidence-gathering and case build-up–an indispensable part of, and incidental to, legal representation and assistance,” she argued.

“Thus =, it is respectfully submitted that PAO forensic services fall within its mandate of independently rendering free legal representation, assistance and counselling to indigents and other qualified persons,” she added.

Acosta boasted that there has been no misuse of funds since the creation of PAO’s forensics laboratory.

“No such misappropriation can and will be found,” she said.

“It bears to stress that PAO has not been conferred with any notice of suspension, disallowance, or charge by the COA (Commission on Audit),” she added.

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