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House asks: Who takes care of cadavers of crime victims?

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The House committee on public order and safety launched an inquiry this week on the handling, retrieval, autopsy and disposal of cadavers of crime victims.

During the hearing, the committee chaired by Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop learned from Dr. Raquel Fortun, head of the Department of Pathology of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, and Dr. Ma. Cecilia Lim of the UP-Philippine General Hospital, that no government agency was handling such tasks involving the bodies of victims of crimes.

Fortun and Lim are the only known certified pathologists in the country.

Fortun said it is unfortunate that there is no existing government system or law that deals with forensic autopsy.

“Who should be doing it? Who will authorize who? There is no system that tells how it is going to be done. So, everything must be defined,” said Fortun.

Lim said there are people whom the public may confuse to be certified pathologists when in fact, they are not. “The bill should be clear on that aspect. People tend to usurp their authority.”

Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory Director Chief Supt. Debold Sinas confirmed there is no existing government system to handle the preservation of evidence from cadavers whose causes of death are under investigation.

“What happens is that the PNP would call and request funeral parlors to retrieve the cadavers while under initial investigation. The autopsy is sometimes conducted in the morgues provided by funeral homes,” said Sinas.

Members of the Philippine Embalmers and Undertakers Association (PEUA) agreed with Sinas. They also expressed support for the proposal to put up a modern and centralized repository of cadavers, including their records, fingerprints, and DNA.

The committee tackled House Bill No. 4171, authored by Surigao del Norte second-district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, seeking to require mandatory autopsy on bodies of crime victims, deaths under mysterious and suspicious circumstances.

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