Garin alleged that the PAO forensic office led by Dr. Erwin Erfe has no legal basis under Republic Act No. 9406 – the law that created PAO.
Michael Varcas
House OKs P21.75-B DOJ budget for 2020
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - September 13, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has approved the proposed P21.75-billion budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for 2020 despite questions on the legality of the creation of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) forensic laboratory raised by Iloilo 1st district Rep. Janette Garin.

In budget deliberations last Wednesday night, the House plenary “terminated” the proposed budget of DOJ, including PAO as an attached agency, as it set aside the issue raised by Garin during interpellation.

During the hearing, Garin had a heated exchange with House committee on appropriations vice chair and Compostela Valley 2nd district Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga, who sponsored and defended the DOJ’s proposed budget on the floor.

Garin alleged that the PAO forensic office led by Dr. Erwin Erfe has no legal basis under Republic Act No. 9406 – the law that created PAO.

In response, Gonzaga argued that the PAO “has investigative power because it is an attached agency of the DOJ... and therefore it has the power to investigate, provided it has authority from the secretary of the DOJ.”

Not satisfied, Garin asked Gonzaga to specify the provision in the PAO law that allows creation of its forensic laboratory, which conducted the autopsies on children and persons who died after getting shots of Dengvaxia vaccine. The vaccine was introduced during the previous administration when Garin was the health secretary.

“We don’t need lectures here. We just need the honorable sponsor to please indicate the specific provision of the PAO law,” she stressed. 

Gonzaga then said RA 9406 “allows the PAO to take a case buildup.” Still not satisfied, Garin maintained that there is no law to justify the creation of the forensic office.

The heated debate prompted the House leadership to suspend proceedings and called Garin and Gonzaga to a huddle with Majority Leader Martin Romualdez.

The House plenary later terminated and approved the proposed budget of DOJ and PAO, which is proposing a budget of P4.22 billion next year, and just required the DOJ to submit its opinion on the legal issue raised by Garin.

The issue was already raised during hearing of the House appropriations panel on the DOJ budget where PAO chief Persida Rueda-Acosta explained that their forensic laboratory office was approved by the Department of Budget and Management since 2004. The funding for the office was also approved in the General Appropriations Act for 2019. – With Jess Diaz, Ding Cervantes, Cecille Suerte Felipe

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE JANETTE GARIN
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