An official of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) on Saturday, Nov. 28, expressed dismay over limitations that were reportedly imposed by several senators in its 2021 budget.
PAO forensics laboratory head Dr. Erwin Erfe said that the PAO learned last Thursday, Nov. 26, the Senators Franklin Drilon and Juan Edgardo Angara inserted provisions in the 2021 budget of the PAO forensic laboratory.
“The provision inserted by Senators Drilon and Angara would prevent our employees from receiving their salaries and prevent them from using the budget for lab operation,” he explained.
The doctor added this will also affect its services to “all 13 million yearly clients of PAO.”
Erfe noted that the PAO forensics laboratory consists of two medical specialists, a medicolegal officer, a dentist, a nurse, a medical technician and a lab technician.
The doctor believes the budget cut is part of efforts to disrupt the PAO from prosecuting those who are believed responsible for the suffering and deaths of persons who received shots of the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.
“Garin (former Health Secretary and now Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin), Angara and Drilon want to cripple the PAO Forensic Lab in collecting evidence in the Dengvaxia cases,” Erfe alleged.
Garin has been named as respondent and accused in many of the Dengvaxia cases filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) and in the court, respectively.
Meanwhile, Erfe said the PAO will exert efforts to stop this budget cut. “We are hoping the lower house will oppose it in the Bicam,” he said. “We will ask the President to veto,” he added.
Last year, PAO Chief Persida Acosta protested against the decision of Drilon and Angara to remove from the PAO’s 2020 budget the P19.5 million provided by President Duterte’s National Expenditure Program (NEP).
Acosta had revealed that the Drilon and Angara’s father, late former Sen. Edgardo Angara, were founding partners of the Angara Abella Concepcion Regalla and Cruz Law Offices (ACCRA), the firm representing Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur in the cases.
Erfe said last month Acosta wrote House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco asking to respect Duterte’s NEP in the PAO’s 2021 budget and oppose any attempt to insert limitation in the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) of the PAO.