70th Founding Anniversary of the PNP Crime Laboratory

18 May 2015

Isang maganda at mapagpalang umaga sa inyong lahat!

Napakaaga pong nagsimula ng ating pagdiriwang ngayong umaga! Minabuti ko pong makapagkape kanina, at maganda ang aking gising, para po makasiguro na magiging maganda rin ang aking tikas at ang aking tindig ngayon katulad ng ating Kapulisan na nandirito ngayon!

You know, I consider myself a part of the extended family of our police force, having been adopted last year as honorary member of PNPA Class 1989—ang mga “Tagapagbuklod”.

Kaya naman po, maraming salamat sa pagkumbida sa inyong lingkod upang makasama kayong lahat sa umagang ito!

Malaking karangalan po sa akin ito. I am truly privileged to have been chosen by your organization to be with you all this morning in marking this historic milestone of the PNP Crime Lab. Hindi po biro ang umabot sa seventy (70) years! Sa katunayan, ayon sa World Health Organization (WHO), the average life expectancy of a Filipino (as of 2013) is sixty-eight (68) years. The PNP Crime Lab has outlived the Filipino life expectancy rate! Congratulations! Senior citizen na, septuagenarian pa!

Joking aside, this longevity can unarguably be attributed to the fact that the public service being rendered by the Crime Lab is essentially important to the development and progress of our society and nation, which is the “effective delivery of JUSTICE through (Forensic) Science”.

Which is why I found this year’s theme to be very interesting because of the “double meaning” it conveys. Kung sino man po ang nakaisip ng tema para sa inyong anibersaryo, talaga namang siya ay magaling at matalas. Napakaganda po at napakalalim kasi ng naipapahiwatig ng inyong tema!

“70 Years of Dynamic Forensic Service for the Filipino, and Beyond!”

On the one hand, the PNP Crime Lab yearns, full of hope, to continue to be of meaningful service to the nation.

Sa kabilang banda, para bang ipinapahiwatig ng tema sa matalinghagang paraan ang serbisyong ginagampanan ng Crime Lab sa lipunan. The service that it provides to the citizenry—quite literally—extends to the “great beyond”, or to the after-life, o sa “kabilang-buhay”.

Gamitin natin sa isang konkretong halimbawa. Sa isang karaniwang kaso ninyo ng “Found Dead Body”, you are capable of delivering justice to the victim of crime, by providing the answers as to the cause of death and the identity of the perpetrator, through the application of science, using the clues wittingly or unwittingly left in the scene. In cases of “disaster victim identification”, justice is likewise served to the dead by uniting them with their relatives and allowing them to be given decent and respectable burial by their families.

In both these cases, grave injustice will have otherwise been caused owing to the sheer anonymity borne by the circumstances. Without timely and effective intervention, the perpetrator will have been allowed to flee with impunity, and the victims allowed to helplessly disappear, be lost forever, and hopelessly remain but a sad memory in the hearts and minds of the loved ones they leave behind.

The double entendre cleverly fashioned by your theme captures the very essence of what should be the primordial aspirations of the Crime Lab as an institution of government. As much as we hope for the Crime Lab’s continued existence for more decades to come, we should also aspire for the Crime Lab’s continued accomplishment of its mandate to the public—which is the “effective delivery of JUSTICE through (Forensic) Science”.

The way I see it, the Crime Lab contributes to the maintenance of peace and order and the rule of law, not so much directly in the areas of “crime prevention” or “crime suppression”, but in the equally important area of “crime solving”, which paves the way for attainment of justice. Ultimately, the efficiency and accuracy that result from the application of science both accelerate and circumscribe this goal of delivering justice, and this indirectly creates for the community an enduring atmosphere of peace and order through the deterrent effects of an effective criminal justice system.

Sabi nga ng motto ng PNP Crime Lab: “SCIENCE, TRUTH, JUSTICE”. One can immediately see that the undisputed end-goal of your mandate is really JUSTICE. The dynamics of these virtues is that they work progressively, almost chronological in order. Application of science muna, in order to discover and uncover the truth…with the ultimate objective of achieving justice. Clearly, science per se is not the end-goal, but rather just the means employed. Katarungan talaga ang pangunahing pakay!

These reflections can help us rationalize and make sense of the challenges that currently beset your organization and the field of forensic science itself.

Unang-una, alam ko na tulad ng ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno, ang Crime Lab ay namomroblema sa kakulangan ng pondo at kakulangan ng tao. Then, we also have this historic and very shocking revelation of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about the gross “forensic failure” in the United States involving its microscopic hair analysis routine. According to the FBI, ninety-percent (90%) of the evidence “contained erroneous statements”. And what made this mea culpa very shocking is the fact that these faulty evidence had been the basis of criminal convictions, some of which even involved the death penalty!

Nakakatakot po, kung ating iisiping mabuti! United States na po ang ating pinag-uusapan. Sometimes we wonder how a country as wealthy and powerful as the United States can still be a victim of its own success and technological advancements.

Even DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing had been the subject of strong criticisms—even at its present supposedly very advanced state. Halimbawa, yung nangyari sa kaawa-awang si Lukis Anderson ng California, USA.

In 2013, Anderson was arrested and tagged as the culprit in the gruesome murder of Raveesh Kumra, a millionaire businessman. Nakulong siya at nanganib na mahatulan ng kamatayan. The investigators allegedly found traces of his DNA on the victim’s body. The big problem was that at the very moment that the crime had been allegedly committed, Mr. Anderson was confined in a hospital, dahil sa matinding kalasingan. His defense was thus a clear case of a viable alibi.

Paano raw niyang magagawa ang karumal-dumal na krimen?!

It turned out that the paramedics who had brought Anderson to the hospital were the very same team that had responded to the reported murder of Kumra hours later. Lumabas na naipasa ng mga paramedics kay Kumra ang DNA na nakuha nila kay Anderson noong dinala siya sa ospital!

Napakatindi ng drama. Pang-“CSI” at pang-“Bones” talaga ang level!

Seriously however, in real life, such cases evoke a rather dark and unsettling “chilling effect” to the common citizen. Pang-TV drama ang kuwento, ngunit maaaring mangyari ito sa isang ordinaryong mamamayan sa tunay na buhay!

Biruin n’yo, muntik nang lethal injection o gas chamber ang inabot ni Anderson! Eh, ang tanging ginawa lang naman niya ay mag-happy-happy!

This is the kind of scenario that we want to avoid. Guided by its ultimate objective of JUSTICE as its polestar, and aided by science, the PNP Crime Lab can ensure that our criminal justice system will be strongly guarded against the rueful possibilities of wrongful and unjust prosecutions and convictions.

Indeed, considering the work that you do, you are not so much agents of law enforcement, much less of the prosecution. Rather, as forensic scientists, you are both “agents of science” and “agents of justice”—notwithstanding the fact that you are absorbed as operational agents of our national police force.

As agents of science, you should be objective and impartial. Your judgment should be directed by the works and conclusions of science, and should neither be controlled nor pressured nor even clouded by extraneous and non-scientific factors—in spite of your natural affiliation with and loyalty to the police organization.

As noted by one American forensic analyst who reacted to the FBI report: “We are SCIENTISTS, not cops or prosecutors.” Kung tutuusin, ganito talaga ang tamang perspektibo sa pag-intindi sa tungkulin at responsibilidad ng isang forensic analyst.

Hence, in the exercise of your functions as forensic analysts and expert witnesses in court, please always ensure that the demands of justice are accomplished, more than those of the prosecution’s.

If science produces a conclusion that would be more beneficial to the accused, then it must be accepted as an equally viable result and should be allowed to prevail. Human conscience would also lead us to the same compassionate direction. And when in doubt, it is best to err on the side of caution, on the side of the protection of constitutional rights, on the side of protection of human life, liberty and property. Do not hesitate to boldly proffer such conclusions, and testify in favor of the accused! Sabi nga ni William Blackstone sa kanyang legendary na “Blackstone’s ratio”: “It is better that ten (10) guilty persons escape than one (1) innocent suffer”!

Also, do not hesitate to make such conclusions, even if government itself either does not want to hear it or wants none of it.

Tulad ng nangyari noong bagyong Yolanda. Nagkaroon ng pagtatalo sa pagitan ng mga forensic analysts mula sa pribadong sektor at mula sa NBI, tungkol sa tamang proseso ng pagkilala sa mga nasawi. Maya-maya, isiniwalat ng pribadong doktor (Dr. Racquel Fortun) na nagsimula ang pagtatalo dahil ayaw di-umano ng administrasyon na makarinig ng “bad news” tungkol sa tunay na bilang ng mga namatay. Ayaw nitong tanggapin na tinatayang nasa mahigit 10,000 talaga ang mga nasawi sa bagyo—taliwas sa naunang pahayag ng administrasyon na nasa 2,500 lamang. KATARUNGAN po ang pinakamahalaga. Makatarungan ba na sadyang ibaba ang death toll, kung sa katunayan ay hindi naman? Hindi mabibigyan ng tamang pagkilala at katarungan ang ibang mga nasawi!

Despite the inherent budgetary and manpower constraints of the organization, I exhort everybody from the leadership of the Crime Lab all the way up to the PNP top-brass—PDDG Espina—to do everything to ensure that we shall always have a Crime Laboratory that is “operationally effective”, with safe, sound and secure “creative innovations”, chain-of-custody protocols and standard operating procedures, which are capable of faithfully preserving and accurately solving even the most complicated and baffling of crime scenes, cases and mysteries.

Please always remember and be guided that it has been officially documented and demonstrated that forensic analysis is susceptible not only to human error and frailty, but even to the analysts’ own fraudulent acts and misconduct.

A practice of Forensic Science, that is not only “operationally effective”, but most of all, JUST, ETHICAL and CIRCUMSCRIBED by the Bill of Rights, is the brand of practice that you should all strive to institute and install in our country. In spite of the imperfections and constraints, this is precisely the brand of Forensic Science that we Filipinos can all still be proud of.

This is all the more crucial during this time of immense challenges in the PNP’s history. The Crime Lab can help lead the charge in stemming the tide of negative public perception and even of demoralization within the ranks. With strong, visionary and conscientious leadership, the PNP can rise again and bounce back as a stronger, more united, more efficient, more credible and more reliable citizens’ police force of our country!

Nasa inyo ngayon ang specimen ni Usman, hindi po ba? I wish you all the best in arriving at the correct, impartial and objective scientific conclusion—in spite of the earlier pronouncements of the MILF, AFP, and even of Malacañang! Gawin ninyo ang lahat upang mapatunayan kung ano ba talaga ang katotohanan! Naniniwala ako na may kakayahan ang PNP Crime Lab upang gawin ito! Maging noong una pa lamang, sa kaso ng daliri ni Marwan mismo! Sayang lamang po at hindi nasunod ang protocol!

To end, I also exhort the Crime Lab to assist in the development of the field of forensic science in the country. Establish linkages with the academe, the private sector and with other government agencies, for the pooling of resources and brainpower.

Take note that in 2012, the Commission on Higher Education has already laid down the academic requirements and standards for the Forensic Science program in college, paving the way for higher educational institutions to embark on promoting the same to future students. So, we can expect that in a few years, our schools will introduce to the labor force new batches of workers with forensic science backgrounds. This will supply the needed warm bodies to boost our manpower.

In due time, the professional discipline of Forensic Science will be formally developed in our country, including its professional standards and code of ethics. The PNP Crime Lab can be instrumental in bringing about this robust change in our public service.

Kaya naman po hindi ako nagdududa na magpapatuloy pa ang magandang serbisyo ng PNP Crime Lab sa ating lipunan at bansa! So, here’s to decades more of the PNP Crime Lab’s relevant existence, and operationally effective and ethical service to our country!

Congratulations to the entire PNP Crime Laboratory family on the occasion of its 70th Founding Anniversary!

Mabuhay ang PNP Crime Lab! Mabuhay ang ating Kapulisan!

Maraming salamat po at hanggang sa atin pong muling pagkikita!

Dios ti agngina kadakayo amin!

Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!