Payback time? Garin questions legal grounds of PAO forensic service
By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN
It seems that it’s payback time for Senior Deputy Minority Floor Leader Jannete Garin (Iloilo) as she schooled her detractors in the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) over legal grounds of the agency’s forensic service.
During Wednesday’s budget deliberations for the proposed P21.75-billion budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Garin threatened to pursue the deferment of agency’s budget after Compostela Valley Rep. Ruwel Gonzaga failed to give satisfactory responses to her queries about PAO’s acquisition of forensic laboratory equipment.
Garin and Gonzaga engaged in series of heated exchange over the legality of PAO’s forensic laboratory.
Gonzaga cited Sec 14 of PAO’s charter—power and functions of the agency—but Garin insisted that the Davao-based solon to just read the provision that allows PAO to operate a forensics laboratory.
Gonzaga responded and cited Republic Act No. 9406 which mandates PAO to have case buildup.
Garin got irked with Gonzaga’s raw response.
“My question can be answered by a yes or no. Is the creation of a forensics lab in the law?” asked Garin
Garin stressed that forensics is not among mandates of PAO, which is headed by Atty. Persida Rueda-Acosta.
Acosta investigated the irregularities surrounding the purchase of the controversial P3.5-billion worth of Dengvaxia vaccines during Garin’s tenure as Health secretary.
The PAO chief recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Garin and other former and incumbent health officials, blaming them for the deaths of children who received Dengvaxia shots.
Garin called for a closer scrutiny of the PAO’s P4.22-billion budget, saying that Acosta should justify the existence of the state-of-the-art forensic laboratory of the agency, including the operating expenses in maintaining it.
The Iloilo solon later also questioned the professional qualifications of PAO forensics laboratory chief, Dr. Erwin Erfe—who conducted autopsy over the alleged victims of Dengvaxia.