Duterte rejects cut in PAO forensic lab budget

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 30 2020 12:22 PM

Duterte rejects cut in PAO forensic lab budget 1

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has vetoed a provision in the 2021 national budget that would have slashed the funds of the forensics laboratory of the Public Attorney's Office (PAO), which a lawmaker earlier said was unauthorized and a duplication. 

The provision is "inappropriate" as it does "not relate to particular appropriations in the budget," Duterte said in his veto message to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco. 

"The doctrine of 'inappropriate provision enunciates, among others, that 'when the legislature inserts inappropriate provisions in a general appropriation bill, such provisions must be treated as 'items' for purposes of the [Governor's] item veto power over general appropriation bills," Duterte said. 

Lawmakers cannot "encumber the general appropriation bill with veto-proof 'logrolling measures', special interest provisions which could not succeed if separately enacted, or 'riders', substantive pieces of legislation incorporated in a bill to ensure passage without veto," said the President. 

PAO Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta on Facebook thanked Duterte for his direct veto on the provision that she attributed to Senators Sonny Angara and Franklin Drilon. 

Drilon earlier said PAO's laboratory duplicates the forensic work of government investigative bodies, and vowed to transfer its P19.5 million budget to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) instead to improve its crime laboratory. 

He said PAO did not have the proper authority and mandate to create its own forensic unit that it used to investigate and file cases related to the alleged deaths caused by the dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. Even private health experts and Health officials have questioned PAO's findings, he said. 

"In my view, your forensic laboratory has no basis in law. It is not authorized by your own charter. It is a mere duplication of the functions of our investigative bodies which have not been shown to be inefficient and incompetent," Drilon said last year.

"The problem is, you want to be the NBI by putting up your forensic laboratory. Doctor ka na, pulis ka pa," he told Acosta. 

(You're already a doctor, and you're a police officer, too.)

PAO has filed dozens of complaints against officials of the previous administration for allegedly causing the deaths of several children vaccinated with Dengvaxia, which its maker admitted could trigger more severe symptoms in some cases.

Acosta last year denied that her office caused a decline in immunization rates because of its controversial probe into the Dengvaxia dengue vaccine. 

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