MANILA - A medico-legal consultant of the Public Attorney's Office whom former president Benigno Aquino III apparently criticized said Tuesday the PAO once helped examine the remains of Aquino's father, the late Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.
Aquino on Monday slammed the expert for criticizing his administration's vaccination program despite allegedly having a certification similar to documents forged in Recto, Manila.
While he did not name the subject of his tirades, his spokesperson Abigail Valte earlier wrote an article claiming that PAO forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe had received training from a "certification mill" in the US.
Defending his credentials, Erfe noted that he was tapped in 2004 to review the forensic evidence in the assassination of Aquino's father, slain senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. when his convicted killers sought a re-opening of his murder case before the Supreme Court.
"Noong 2004 po, kinuha po kami ng Public Attorney's Office para pag-aralan ang assassination ni Senator Ninoy Aquino... Alam po iyun ng dating Presidente," Erfe told DZMM.
The Aquino camp's lawyer, former senator Rene Saguisag, had coordinated with PAO experts and presented their findings to the high court, he added.
'NOT A PATHOLOGIST'
PAO has claimed autopsies conducted by its forensic experts have found a pattern in the deaths of at least 18 children who received an anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia under the Aquino administration.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, however, said last week that any conclusion made by Erfe from the autopsies should not be regarded as an "expert opinion" as he is not a pathologist, but a medico-legal officer.
Erfe said he "never claimed" that he was a pathologist, but that he has been a medico-legal consultant for 22 years.
Medico-legal officers, he said, are "trained forensic physicians" who conduct about 95 percent of autopsies needed by police and the National Bureau of Investigation.
He added that PAO tapped 2 pathologists to help its forensic experts analyze deaths being linked to Dengvaxia.
PAO's findings are different from that of an expert panel tapped by the government because the latter only examined Dengvaxia cases based on medical records. PAO, on the other hand, examined the remains of alleged vaccine-related fatalities, said Erfe.
Erfe said he took up medicine at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, obtained his law degree from the Manila Law College, and studied forensics at the University of the Philippines-Diliman.
He is a fellow at 6 forensic organizations in the US and Europe, including the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute (ACFEI), which Valte referred to as a "certification mill."
ACFEI had come under fire after a woman with no background in medicine or forensics became its member after paying $660 or roughly P34,000.
Erfe acknowledged that ACFEI has grappled with controversies, but said it remains one of the largest organizations of forensic experts, including many Filipino lawmen.
Some individuals, he said, have brought up negative blogs about ACFEI in a bid to brand him as a "fake" forensic expert.
Erfe also said he has a certification in public financial management from John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University.