PNP Crime Lab: The science of solving crimes

Many become glued to their television sets when they watch the popular “CSI,” an American TV series which shows details of how forensic scientists unveil the mysteries behind unusual deaths and crimes.

In the Philippines, science journalists recently visited the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory in Camp Crame and took a look at how the local “CSI” experts are solving crimes.

But wait. One might ask: “What are science journalists doing in a crime laboratory?” “Isn’t a police crime lab only a territory for police reporters?” another might add.

Solving crimes or forensics is a science which uses scientific tests or techniques in the investigation of crimes.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines forensics as “the use of science and technology to investigate and establish facts in criminal or civil courts of law.”

Wikipedia says, “Forensic science [often shortened to forensics] is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of interest to the legal system. This may be in relation to a crime or to a civil action.”

“Forensicm” Wikipedia says, comes from the Latin word “forensis” meaning forum. During the time of the Romans, a criminal charge meant presenting the case before a group of public individuals. Both the person accused of the crime and the accuser would give speeches based on their side of the story. The individual with the best argumentation and delivery would determine the outcome of the case. In other words, the person with the best forensic skills would win.

It should be noted that almost all aspects of our lives nowadays are developed by advances in science—from food development through biotechnology, to medical products and equipment, to beauty products, to environment and to solving crimes.

In this case, all journalists—including police reporters, and not only science journalists—become involved in reporting stories that concern the application of science and technology.

To stress this point, the PNP Crime Lab manpower is composed of medical doctors, chemists, biologists, pharmacists, among others, with particular line of expertise, and underwent trainings in the country and abroad.

As one of the crime lab experts said: “If the law has made you a witness, remain a man of science,” because it is only through science where truth and justice prevails in a crime.

Ranking officers who head the different divisions of the PNP Crime Lab took turns in briefing the visiting science journalists from the Philippine Science Journalists Association Inc. (PSciJourn) on the operations of this vital branch of the national police.

The Fingerprint Lab, which is the oldest division dating back in 1945 under the former Philippine Constabulary Criminal Investigation Service (PC-CIS), is one of the busiest divisions in the crime lab.

Besides fingerprinting suspected criminals, the division also gives lectures and provides the military and police schools with fingerprint experts.

Supt. Arturo Cacdac Jr. said the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (Afis) matches the fingerprints of suspects with evidences collected. It is currently collating the fingerprint data of people involved in criminal cases.

Cacdac pointed out that “while the crime lab is not on a par with the US investigative agencies because they have modern and high-tech equipment, we are very much capable in the technical aspect.”

He revealed a five-year program to set up provincial crime lab units together with 26 drug testing centers. The PNP inaugurated this year the new crime labs in Rizal and Laguna. Six more are planned this year, 10 next year, nine in 2009, six in 2010 and six more in 2011.

Cacdac also mentioned a proposed construction of a forensics building in Camp Crame. He even joked that the Fingerprint Division people are crossing their fingers that the forensics building would come soon enough.

The Chemistry Division, headed by PCI Grace Eustaquio, determines if the suspect or victim has alcohol, poison or any toxic material in the body. It also analyzes the chemical content of exploded bombs.

The Polygraph Division, manned by psychology and criminology graduates, is headed by Major Nelisa Geronimo. She has been in her job for years, making her a lie-detector expert. She said many of the cases referred to her are suspected “inside-job cases.”

The PNP-NCR’s two analog and one digital machines are able to take the tests within about 30 minutes and release the results within 24 hours at 98 percent to 99 accuracy.

Geronimo said: “A woman less than four months pregnant can go through a polygraph test [because the baby is still less developed and his system will not hamper the test].”

She explained: “If the woman is five to nine months pregnant the lie-detector machine would have difficulty determining who it is monitoring since the baby inside her has functioning organs already.”

A person suffering from hypertension are also advised against going through a lie-detector test because it would be difficult to read the person’s blood pressure.

The DNA Division’s top man is PCI Francisco Supe, a doctor of medicine who has undergone extensive trainings in the field.

The Medico-Legal Division is in charge of identification of corpses through the use of DNA, autopsy and dental identification, among others.

Tampered serial numbers, bullets, shoe and footprints, cartridges or test firing of arms of different caliber are examined by the Physical Evidence Identification Division.

The Questioned Documents Division examines handwritings and signatures, tampered documents and fake bills, among others.

A team of experts in medico-legal, fingerprint and DNA, among others, from the crime lab have successfully identified victims of natural disasters, where corpses are too many and in advanced state of decomposition.

The men and women in this team are trained in Australia through a bilateral cooperation program. Thousands of victims from super typhoon Reming in Albay last year benefited from the work of these experts. Same with those in the Guinsaugon flash floods in Southern Leyte last year. – PSciJourn News Service

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48 Responses to “PNP Crime Lab: The science of solving crimes”


  1. 1 luisa Ann C. Gagan August 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Do you have some statistics about how reliable or how fingerprinting helped in crime solving (it has accurately identified the culprit, it had aided in the deliverance of justice through court –fingerprint is the main evidence of the case?

    • 2 Dr Roy Camarillo December 26, 2013 at 9:38 am

      Dactyloscopy is an exact science so I can assure you that its application is solving crimes is quite accurate and reliable at that. We in the Crime Laboratory have what is called AFIS or Automated Fingerprint Identification System where in all available fingerprints in the possession of PNP are stored, so it is like a fingerprint bank. Once a questioned prints are lifted and developed,it is compared with the fingerprints stored in the system and once matched its is 100% scientifically acceptable and made as a reliable physical evidence once the case has filled in court.

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  3. 4 eric caso November 18, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    finger printing can help in the locating the criminal offender

  4. 5 Rengenx March 13, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Потыкаю по рекламке в качестве благодарности за статью!

  5. 6 rogelio caparoso September 6, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    in some other local area in the Philippines, how could they solve major problems in investigating crimes if they are lack of equipment to be used in their investigation.

  6. 7 diana February 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    hi po, i just want to ask if you are accepting students for an on-the-job training program?

  7. 9 Mary Ann Cacho August 3, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Can we do field trip specifically on chemistry classes in the PNP Crime Lab? Please email me at mheng_cacho@yahoo.com

    Thank you.

  8. 10 richardmacapulay December 23, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    Could some chemistry students join the team for their OJT?

  9. 11 Len January 19, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Do you have hand-ons seminar/training in Forensic Chemistry this Summer vacation? We would like to enhance our knowledge in forensic science. I am a teacher. Thank you

  10. 12 khoiiy de guzman May 27, 2012 at 1:46 am

    im a second year student palang,my course is medtech and im really looking forward into becoming a forensic scientist,and i was thinking that instead of working abroad id rather srve my own country,so if i may ask,is the crime lab and equipments in it are they like similar to the csi crime labs like the ones shown in the tv series,? i mean im just like curious because i haven’t seen an actual crime lab yet..i was thinking it would likely be simply a laboratory like in hospitals?…uhm…and can i ask for advices?…on how it is to be in forensics?…im really really intrested…heheh

  11. 13 EDWARD P. PASCUA October 4, 2012 at 7:42 am

    gud am… jst want to ask if may vacant item po tayo ngayon dyan sa crimelab for forensic investigator? m a criminologist.

    • 14 Dr Roy Camarillo December 26, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Crime Laboratory normally has its own quota for police recruits preferably a licensed criminologist. Unfortunately for the past years, we don’t have quota.

  12. 15 Karen Rabena October 5, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Kindly share your expertise to us in the academe conducting training or short courses in Forensic Science? Please invite us if you have these kind of activities in order to uplift or enhance the capability of Teachers in this kind of profession. thank you

  13. 16 Karen Rabena October 5, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Kindly share your expertise to us in the academe by conducting training or short courses in Forensic Science. Please invite us if you have these kind of activities in order to uplift or enhance the capability of Teachers in this kind of profession. thank you very much.
    We hope to hear a favorable action on this.

    • 17 Dr Roy Camarillo December 26, 2013 at 9:45 am

      You may request for a seminar in your school and invite forensic expert as resource person/s or speakers from the Crime Laboratory, Camp Crame, Quezon City addressed your request to the Director of Crime Laboratory.

  14. 18 Ahamad Y. askalani November 10, 2012 at 10:37 am

    May i ask if you have program on fingerprinting for non-uniform personnel. I am interesting to learn this process of investigation.

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  16. 20 Rodulfo M. Quilario November 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Hello, I’m interested to attend training in solving crime if you have a short course on this, please share your expertise. at ask ko din kung pwede kami mg field trip jan, Sal;amat. My email: exsodusxy11@yahoo.com

  17. 21 Rodulfo M. Quilario November 20, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Hello, I’m interested to attend training in solving crime if you have a short course on this, please share your expertise. at ask ko din kung pwede kami mg field trip jan, Sal;amat. My email: exsodusxy11@yahoo.com ( could my students join the team for experience?)

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