NBI questions forensic expertise of PAO consultant

By Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog

Posted at Feb 18 2013 05:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2013 01:33 AM

BATANGAS – Members of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Region IV are upset over the pronouncement of the Public Attorney’s Office that they goofed in their probe into the death of a witness in the murder of broadcaster and environmentalist Gerry Ortega.

NBI director for Calabarzon Atty. Constantino Joson and NBI regional medico-legal officer Dr. Antonio Vertido, the two who conducted the autopsy on Dennis Aranas, denied making the conclusion that the victim died of suicide by hanging himself inside his cell in Lucena City.

“I heard over the radio and some friends that they (PAO) were telling that the NBI, specifically my findings, ay mali daw. How can that be? Unang-una, hindi nila nakita ang report ko, pangalawa, hindi nila ako nakausap, dapat naman siguro, tinanong muna nila ako since we are in the same agency [Department of Justice],” Vertido said.

Vertido conducted the autopsy on Aranas on Feb.6, the day after the witness was found dead inside the Quezon provincial jail.

“Bigti ho ang ikinamatay, wala akong sinabi kung nagbigti sya o binigti sya…hindi naman ako imbestigador, never in my duty for 20 years as medico-legal na nagbigay ako ng conclusion kung paano namatay ang biktima, trabaho ng imbestigador yon,” he added.

Aranas’ relatives refused to believe that he killed himself and sought the help of PAO.

PAO chief Persida Acosta and Dr. Erwin Erfe, the agency’s forensic consultant and forensic laboratory director, conducted a separate autopsy and concluded that Aranas died of strangulation because of the presence of bruises and other signs of foul play.

In a recent press briefing, Acosta said the findings of Dr. Erfe showed signs that Aranas’ death was not self-inflicted, contrary to the claim of the NBI and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

Vertido denounced the PAO’s findings, saying: “I was really amazed how they conducted the autopsy, those pronouncements were really startling and annoying, they painted us as irresponsible government officials.”

“I have never met PAO chief Acosta nor Dr. Erfe, I just know him because he’s a medical consultant of some hospitals here in Batangas. I know he’s (Erfe) a lawyer and a doctor at the same time, but as far as his forensic background, I do not know,” Vertido said.

“Instead, they went to the media, nagbigay kaagad sila ng conclusion nila, without even looking at my report, so anong nangyari sa amin? We were crucified and painted as [being] remiss in our jobs, that’s professionally wrong,” Vertido added.

Aranas acted as a lookout in the murder of Ortega in Puerto Princesa City on Jan. 24, 2011. Former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, have been tagged as masterminds in the killing of Ortega, who was trying to expose the plunder of the revenues from the Malampaya gas field.

PAO’s findings likewise said Aranas could have been beaten up by “maybe four persons.”

Vertido said: “Ang galing naman nila, na-establish din agad nila na apat na tao ang pumatay kay Aranas, bakit nandon ba sila sa loob ng selda nang mangyari ang insidente?”