By Ellson Quismorio
Surigao del Norte 2nd district Rep. Robert Ace Barbers is batting for the establishment of the country’s own a centralized DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) database system.
Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said such database would help authorities solve crimes faster, locate missing persons, identify remains, and establish paternity and other family relationships.
For this purpose, the Mindanao lawmaker filed House Bill (HB) No. 7215, or “An Act Providing for the Establishment of the Philippine DNA Database System (PDDAS).”
“DNA is a powerful investigative tool because, except for identical twins, no two people have the same DNA. Until now, there is no specific law for the management of forensic DNA,” Barbers pointed out.
“We cannot undermine its importance especially in investigating criminal cases such as murder and rape, resolving disputed paternity, and identifying victims of calamities. DNA analysis has also become a common form of evidence in courts,” he also said.
Barbers said the database for this biological imprint would satisfy the state’s policy to establish and maintain a fair, responsible, ethical and efficient criminal justice system.
The bill seeks to institutionalize a national forensic DNA database to be known as the Philippine DNA Database System which shall serve as the central repository of DNA profiles in the Philippines.
It shall contain the forensic DNA profiles of persons categorized under the following indices: crime scene suspected persons, convicted offenders, detainee, drug dependents, missing persons, voluntary persons, uniformed personnel, and government employees.
Barbers said that most of the time, a local investigating officer faces a blank wall when collecting scientific evidence to prove the guilt of an accused person.
According to BBC News, Great Britain pioneered the use of DNA as a crime-fighting tool and introduced the world’s first national database in 1985. Today, it holds the profiles of more than five million people and is credited with helping solve some 40,000 crimes a year.
The United States, Canada, Australia and most European countries have followed United Kingdom’s lead, with DNA profiling now internationally regarded as the most important breakthrough in modern policing.
Under Barber’s proposed law, the PDDAS shall collect, analyze, type or profile, as well as record all genetic markers contained in or derived from DNA.
DNA profile refers to genetic information derived from a forensic DNA analysis. On the other hand, DNA profiling or DNA typing is a process where a minute sample of genetic DNA material is taken from human tissue and given a digital numeric value or barcode.
Barbers said a Philippine DNA Database System scientific advisory committee shall be established to develop quality assurance standards for DNA testing database. It shall be headed by a representative from the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital.
The database and any information contained therein shall only be accessed by the Philippine DNA Database Office (PDDO), which shall be composed of personnel from the Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), and the Armed Forces of the Philippine (AFP).
Any other law enforcement agencies who may wish to access information in the database shall get prior clearance from the PDDO.
The PNP Crime Laboratory shall safely and securely store all biological samples collected under this Act. Employees of private institutions may also submit their DNA samples.
Records collected and maintained for identification of criminal suspects or offenders shall only be disclosed upon lawful order of the court.
Improper disclosure of DNA samples and records shall be punishable by imprisonment ranging from eight years and one day or a fine not lower than P500,000 or both, upon the discretion of the court.