UN expert’s visit to boost PH forensic investigation capacity

By Benjamin Pulta

February 3, 2023, 5:24 pm

MANILA - Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla on Friday reiterated that the visit of forensics expert Dr. Morris Tidball-Binz to the country this month is meant to boost the country’s much-needed capability in examining wrongful deaths.

In a media interview, Remulla stressed that the 66-year-old United Nations expert is “not coming in as a special rapporteur.”

“Dr. Tidball-Binz is coming in for the capacity building of our medical corps so that we will be ready for emergencies, we will be ready for wrongful death situations in terms of autopsy and forensic pathology. We are starting to build up a corps of medical specialists (pathologists) who can work on wrongful death situations and, of course, who can work on disaster identification, if there are victims,” he said.

“That’s why, this capacity building is one of the commitments we have with the United Nations. and of course, the UN will be the one that will fund this capacity building program,” Remulla added.

Tidball-Binz was appointed the UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions on 1 April 2021.

He had been in the country as part of an international team of pathologists to identify the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.

Earlier, Remulla said that there is a need to increase or do capacity building for forensic pathologists in the country, noting that the country only has two licensed, legal, legitimate and actually “internationally accepted forensic pathologist.”

“We want every region to have a medico-legal who is a forensic pathologist or at least trained already in forensic pathology,” he said.

In a related development, Remulla said the family of the slain Caloocan teenager Kian De los Santos who died at the height of the drug war will be meeting with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) following revelations made by forensics pathologist Raquel Fortun that the initial examination on the body failed to discover a bullet lodged in the boy’s remains.

“I’m working on that already. There’s a turnover of documents to me and the NBI is working on these cases. We’re just doing the procedure for the victim’s family, for them to come forward to the NBI and to have dialogue with them for their testimonies to be heard,” Remulla said.

Meanwhile, Remulla said the DOJ is willing to share documents to the Office of the Solicitor General in connection with plans of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume its probe on the drug war deaths in the Philippines, but however stressed anew that the country is not a member of the ICC.

“We’re not members of the ICC. We can turn over some documents to the Solicitor General but we’re not members of the ICC and there is no procedure by which the ICC can operate here in spite of their claim. There is no agreed procedure because we are not members anymore,” Remulla said. (PNA)