Speech at the 74th Anniversary of the PNP Crime Laboratory

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In both formal and informal occasions, I often stress that this is the point in my life where I certainly have more yesterdays than tomorrows. I tell you, as I gaze into my ‘yesterdays,’ I cannot help but realize how much has really changed in every aspect of our lives.

Let me share with you — in the late 1950s, when I was a young elementary student in a sleepy town of Imus, Cavite, I had a vivid memory of a lone policeman we simply referred to as “Kabo.”

He was a highly esteemed and respected man assigned to keep peace and order in our almost obscure barangay called Barrio Bayanluma then.

Kabo looked like the typical policeman in his khaki outfit, a Pershing cap, clad in nothing but a revolver hanging by a lanyard, a black baton, and a shiny whistle.

Today, trained law enforcers such as yourselves are already well-equipped — one is issued with either a standard pistol or a rifle or both, a nylon pistol belt, multiple magazines, handheld radio, handcuffs, a baton, and a first-aid kit.

You are provided with police cars, technical equipment, investigation kits and proper training — everything that Kabo would find unimaginable during his time.

Back in the day, forensics for biological stains, firearms, fingerprints, computers, and digital devices were nothing but mere science fiction.

Kabo knew nothing about DNA analysis for crime solution. In fact, no one did until its discovery in the mid-1980s.

DNA typing was not used in any casework until 1985 in the United Kingdom, and 1988 in the United States. It was only in 2002 when, for the very first time, DNA became an admissible and authoritative evidence in Philippine jurisprudence.

It leaves us a telling story: the inflow of knowledge and technology has brought a paradigm shift in our law enforcement approach.

Ang mga napapanood lamang natin mula sa mga science crime fiction sa telebisyon tulad ng CSI, The X-Files, at Dexter, ay unti-unti nang nagiging bahagi ng reyalidad.

Sa paglipas ng panahon, bahagi ang Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory service sa transpormasyong ito.

Mahigit pitong dekada simula nang itatag ang PNP Crime Laboratory, kita natin ang ebolusyon ng ahensya bilang isa sa mga kapaki-pakinabang at epektibong sangay ng ating kapulisan sa paglutas ng kriminalidad at disposisyon ng hustisya sa bansa.

From being a small Fingerprint Section in 1945, you have notably evolved to a technically competent organization comprising eight divisions today, namely: medico-legal, chemistry, physical identification, firearms identification, question document, polygraph, fingerprint identification, and forensic photography.

Months ago, the PNP lab in Davao, envisioned to be the “Mega-laboratory of Mindanao,” and the DNA and chemistry laboratory in Cebu, have already been operationalized.

Simultaneously, we are looking ahead to the establishment of a crime lab in Western Visayas that will be the site of data recovery of all systems — an automatic fingerprint identification system, DNA laboratory, bullet comparison microscopes for firearms identification, and many other services.

Sa pagbubukas ng mga laboratoryong ito, hindi na kakailanganing bumiyahe patungong Camp Crame mula sa Bisayas at Mindanao.

In addition, your services have proven to be critical in resolving the menacing threat of terrorism that continues to spread not only in Mindanao but throughout the country, with even more daring and sophisticated means. We take stock of how the DNA technology from the PNP Crime Laboratory confirmed the identities of international terrorists Zulkifli bin Abdul hir alias “Marwan” and Abdul Basit Usman during the Mamasapano operation in 2015.

Needless to say, your task greases the wheels of our criminal justice system.

Amid all these, we should all keep in mind: when forensic scientists and law enforcers such as yourselves do your jobs well, judicial error is less likely to happen.

Nangangahulugan ito ng mabilis at wastong paglutas ng krimen at mas mataas na kumpiyansa ng taumbayan sa ating kapulisan.

Gayunpaman, sa kabila ng pag-unlad ng teknolohiya at kaalaman ng inyong organisasyon, nakasalalay pa rin sa inyong indibidwal na kakayahan ang pagsasakatuparan ng inyong mandato.

The theme of your 74th anniversary poses the greatest challenge of your time – “Building a Culture of Discipline, Excellence, and Integrity, Making a Difference for the PNP.”

Sa bawa’t pagsuot natin ng ating uniporme, sa bawat pagsukbit natin ng ating baril, tanungin natin ang ating sarili: Sapat ba ang aking iniukol na paglilingkod para sa aking bayan?

While many things have changed since the time of Kabo, and since I took the rein of the Philippine National Police from 1999 to 2001, one single most important truth remains: as public servants, your core duty is to protect the public and maintain public trust.

I have always believed that to accomplish this, means working on a solid foundation. That foundation is INTEGRITY; and the test of integrity is credibility.

As I always say, if a man is truthful and upright in public, but renounces those standards in private – he lacks credibility because he has no integrity. A man who cheats himself once is a thousand times worse than the one who cheats a thousand others.

Integrity means being consistent in one’s behavior under every circumstance, including those unguarded and tempting moments.

Almost two decades ago, I could still remember a former head of this very office who knowingly certified an erroneous handwriting specimen analysis of the once infamous fictitious character named Jose Pidal, who laundered over PhP200 million in secret accounts.

That single act immediately landed him a police regional director assignment in the further south of Metro Manila, and a promotion to star rank. In 2011, he redeemed himself by admitting that the signature specimen he certified to as authentic actually was forged.

Clearly, crime pays off. But not without the greatest toll on one’s integrity.

Your job determines the conviction of a criminal and the exoneration of the innocent. It is also a reality that a single error from your end, intentional or not, may result in criminal cases thrown out due to tampered evidence – and worse – innocent people sent behind bars.

Coming from the ranks of law enforcement myself, I understand that carrying out your duties accurately, objectively, and conscientiously needs the aid of adequate resources.

High-level and credible forensic science is vital in the quality of service being provided and delivered by the whole of the PNP. And it does not come cheap.

Time and again, the PNP has been largely dependent on the annual appropriations passed in Congress for the implementation of its programs. Budget cut means shelving out important PNP programs, particularly for modernization and professionalization of our policemen.

Hence, for the past several years that I have been actively participating in the national budget deliberations, I have always made sure that the PNP gets the necessary budgetary requirements for its priority projects and the well-being of its personnel.

Humbly, I share that my institutional amendments to the 2019 appropriations of the PNP were consequently adopted by the Congress under Republic Act 11260 or the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

In fact, for two successive years — 2018 and 2019 — I commit to ensuring that the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of the PNP per capita cost adapts to the inflationary increase. This means that the PNP has adequate budget to support its operations such as expenses for supplies and materials; transportation and travel; and utilities, among others.

Asahan ninyong ang kabuuang halaga na PhP3,492,958,800 upang matugunan ang inaasahang indibidwal na MOOE hindi lamang para sa inyo, kundi pati na rin sa 20,000 bagong recruits ng Philippine National Police, ay nakapaloob na sa 2019 badyet.

Bukod pa rito, may nakalaan na ring PhP75 million para sa Maintenance, Furniture at Fixtures ng limang bagong tayong opisina ng Crime Lab. Inaasahan rin natin na tuloy-tuloy na ang konstruksyon ng Standard Crime Laboratory Offices sa Provincial Regional Offices ng 4A at 6, at Marinduque Crime Laboratory Provincial Office sa inilaang PhP97.35 million para rito.

Rest assured that I will always be a friend of the PNP in heart and spirit in whatever capacity, either as Chairman of the PNP Foundation Inc., or as an elected Senator of the Republic.

We will continue to support the PNP Crime Laboratory to keep it at par with global standards and best practices in forensic science.

The incoming 18th Congress is actually a high time for the institution to push for its meaningful advocacies, especially that two former PNP Chiefs will be championing the cause of this institution in the Upper Chamber not only of this institution but the whole Philippine National Police.

Lest I forget, I salute all brave and competent men and women of PNP Crime Lab, as well as private individuals and non-government organizations who received awards and recognition this morning. You give honor not only to this institution but to the Filipino people you’ve sworn to serve and protect.

As I leave this stage this morning, allow me to pose a challenge to the men and women of the PNP Crime Laboratory through the words of an English anthropologist named Jane Goodall. She stated, and I wish to paraphrase:

“What you do makes a difference. It is actually within your hands to decide what difference you would want to create.”

Muli, maraming salamat at congratulations sa PNP Crime Laboratory at sa buong Philippine National Police.