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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



Fire chief slams proliferation of substandard Christmas lights

General Enrique Linsangan, Chief of the Bureau of Fire Prevention, has noted the increased in numbers of people selling, buying and using substandard Christmas lights during this holiday season.

He urgently reminds users to be cautious or better yet, to discard these kind of decorating materials because they are wrapped in combustible cheap plastics and mass-produced in order to reach the market in time for the holidays.

Linsangan says many of the causes of fire during the Christmas season are the defective and careless use of these decorative lights.

He calls upon the people to use the safe and good quality products which may be higher in price — but are tested and proven safe.

The warning comes after reports of fire that hit houses in Metro Manila the past days which claimed lives and destroyed properties simply because they used cheap substandard decorative lights.

In a news conference held by the PSciJourn News Service at the Bacolod Inasal Restaurant at the Quezon City Circle, General Linsangan also says, the bureau has been doing good jobs despite they lack fire trucks and modern equipment.

He mentions the low appropriation given to the PFP that is why they resort to everything even buying substandard fire truck with only six months warranty.

These trucks become useless after warranty period and become mere displays in stations like what some people call…white elephants.

Linsangan also noted that out of the meager budget, 85-percent is used for salaries of personnel while 15 percent goes to operating expenses.

The meager outlay also causes the undermanned situation in the Bureau of Fire Prevention all over the country.

He adds, that another problem is the outmoded 1948 Fire Code of the Philippines, that is why a new improved Fire Code is needed so much to respond and serve well the communities in remote and urban areas.

Linsangan says he has submitted a proposed code in the office of Senator Allan Peter Cayetano and hopes a positive turnout from the Senate.

PSciJourn, ICRISAT sign MOU; PSciJourn officers take oath

The Philippine Science Journalists Association Inc. (PSciJourn) and the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) on January 4, 2008, signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in order to forge partnership, cooperation and coordination on matters relating to innovative agricultural research and capacity building for sustainable development.

Angelo Palmones, PSciJourn president, and Dr. William Dar, ICRISAT director general, signed the MOU.


Meanwhile, the new set of officers and members of the board directors of PSciJourn were inducted into office by Dr. Dar also on January 4 at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City.

Sworn into office were: Angelo Palmones, president (DZMM-ABS-CBN), Aristotle Carandang, vice president (National Academy of Science and Technology, and Malaya newspaper); Lyn Resurreccion, secretary (BusinessMirror); Susan Layos, treasurer (DZME); Madel Sabater, auditor (Manila Bulletin); Melly Tenorio, PRO (DZRB); Ruby Cristobal, director (Science Education Institute) and Victoria Bartilet, executive director (Science and Technology Information Institute).


PSciJourn was organized in 2001 with Mr. Palmones as founding president.

PSciJourn is a nonstock and nonprofit association of science journalists, science and technology (S&T) communicators and advocates committed to create a science consciousness and culture among Filipinos. It supports public and private efforts in developing a science-oriented citizenry by promoting public awareness, understanding and appreciation of S&T.

PSciJourn creates a pool of science journalists, and works out training and scholarships programs for S&T journalists.

On the other hand, ICRISAT is a nonprofit and nonpolitical organization that does innovative agricultural research and capacity building for sustainable development with partners across the globe to serve the poorest of the poor in the semi-arid areas of the developing world.

ICRISAT adopts integrated genetic and natural-resource management as its overarching research strategy to attain scientific excellence and relevance in agriculture in the semi-arid tropics, focusing on key livelihood and income opportunities to improve the well-being of the poor with equity, multidisciplinarity, sustainability and community participation as core principles.

With the MOU, ICRISAT and PSciJourn agree to undertake joint activities aimed at increasing the level of the people’s awareness in innovative agricultural research and capacity building for sustainable development to attain scientific excellence and relevance in agriculture in the semi-arid tropics, and in the Philippines.

Both organizations will promote a higher level of S&T consciousness and understanding among media practitioners in the country. Specifically, they shall conduct and/or coordinate activities, including media releases, and event coverage of seminars, trainings, conferences, workshops and roundtable discussions.

They will craft a work plan containing proposals and details of projects and activities to implement the MOU. — PSciJourn News Service

Contest to win a week on an Arctic icebreaker

WFSJ, in collaboration with the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the International Polar Year Circumpolar Flaw Lead Project, announces a competition offering science journalists the chance to win a week aboard the Canadian Icebreaker Amundsen.
You could find information on the competition on 

Educators tackle emerging science issues at confab

The Science Club Advisers Association of the Philippines (SCAAP) will conduct the National Conference for Science Educators at the La Vista Pansol Resort, Calamba, Laguna on April 21-25, 2007

With the theme “Science Enthusiasts: Essential Partners for a Sustainable Future”, the five-day activity is being implemented in collaboration with the Department of Education-Center for Students and Co-Curricular Affairs (DepEd-CSCA), Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) and ABS-CBN DZMM.

The conference aims, among others, to unravel misconceptions and promote new trends in science teaching and learning and to strengthen cooperation and participation in worthwhile science and technology projects for a sustainable future.

Science clubs advisers, science teachers, principals, department heads, head teachers, coordinators, district, division and regional science supervisors, and science enthusiasts will participate in interactive course sessions, workshops, hands-on activities and technology lecture-demonstrations.

Topics of interest include, among others, New Trends in Science Teaching and Learning, The Challenge of Biotech to Human Economy, The Wonders of Beauty and Wellness in Science, Climatic Change and the Environment and technology lecture-demonstrations on beads and crystal accessory making, wine making, food processing, basic balloon arrangement, therapeutic massage and foot and hands spa.

Resource speakers and experts include DepEd Undersecretary Vilma L. Labrador, DZMM Station Manager Angelo B. Palmones, ABS-CBN Anchorwoman Cory Quirino, DILG-DLGD Dir. Manuel Q. Gotis, Biotech President Nina Barzaga, DOST-SEI Dir. Ester B. Ogena and PAGASA Supv. Weather Specialist Lourdes V. Tibig.

Interested parties must confirm participation on or before April 10, 2007. For more information, please contact SCAAP President. Aurora R. Catabona at 0919-2553201, SCAAP VP Gloria B. Joaban – 0919-6603195, Mr. Carlito A. Cacho ? 0921-4608059 or DepEd-CSCA Exec. Director Joey G. Pelaez at telefax nos. 631-8495 and 636-3603.

Philippine science journalists join world federation

The Philippine Science Journalists Association, Inc (PSciJourn) is the 23rd member association of the World Federation of Science Journalists (WFSJ) based in Canada.

PSciJourn, organized in mid-2001, with Mr. Angelo B. Palmones (Station Manager, DZMM) as founding President, envisions to be a trailblazer in science journalism by advocating science and technology policies and issues affecting the people and the economy. It also aims to promote public awareness, understanding and appreciation of science and technology as crucial tool in economic development.

One of the significant accomplishments of the association is the celebration of Science Journalism Week on the third week of July of every year by virtue of Presidential Proclamation 437 signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on August 11, 2003.

On April 16-20, 2007, PSciJourn, thru Mr. Palmones , will participate in the 5th World Conference of Science Journalists in Melbourne, Australia. Activities include, among others, a session on building and maintaining science journalists association, WFSJ general assembly and election of the new Board, where PSciJourn is a voting member. There will also be a bidding by member associations to host for the 6th World Conference of Science Journalists in 2009.

DOST fetes outstanding S&T researchers, technologists, journalists

The Department of Science and Technology conferred various awards to 21 outstanding researchers, technologists, and journalists, including institutions and students, July 21 at the Philippine Trade Training Center, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.

The awarding rites culminated the five-day celebration on the National Science and Technology Week that began July 17 and participated in by DOST’s line agencies, regional offices, and partners.

Dr. Eusebio Y. Garcia Awards
Dr. Rita P. Laude and Mr. Marni E. Cuenco of the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of the Philippines Los Baños received this year’s Dr. Eusebio Y. Garcia Awards for Molecular Biology and Molecular Pathology. The award is in recognition of outstanding research on molecular biology and molecular pathology. Criteria include originality, potential application, scholarliness, and uniqueness.

Dr. Laude and Mr. Cuenco’s pioneering research resulted to gene discovery, isoform discovery, and establishment of an ontogenetic pattern of expression in coconut. These discoveries are important in establishing molecular-based coconut standard for the improvement of current coconut technologies and in standardization of virgin coconut oil production in the country, according to the National Research Council of the Philippines, sponsor agency of the Awards.

Gruppo Medica Awards
UP Manila graduates shone this year in the Gruppo Medica Awards which recognizes undergraduate students who diligently and successfully completed significant and innovative research work on herbal medicine with potential practical or commercial applications. According to sponsor agency Philippine Council for Health Research and Development, criteria for selection in the awards include relevance – particularly on the appropriate use of medicinal plants, practical application, creativity and originality, scientific quality, and number of persons involved in the research process.

Two groups bagged the second prize for this year’s awards. Jerome dela Cruz and Jennifer Pineda, BS Industrial Pharmacy and BS Pharmacy seniors respectively during selection time, got second place for the study “Healing property of Portulaca oleracea Linne (portulacaceae) gel on excised wound.” The other winning group is composed of Jeanne Constantino, April Guevarra, and Rosenda Monette Samonte, all BS Industrial Pharmacy graduates of UP Manila, for the research “Burn wound healing property of cream from Portulaca oleracea Linne (portulacaceae).”

Winning third place are Dan Adriel Q. Ebona, Christine Marie L. Garcia, and Benedict E. Radoc for the research “Anti-inflammatory property of the tablet from Hibiscus rosasinensis linne (family malvaceae)”. The research was undertaken by the then senior BS Industrial Pharmacy students at UP Manila.

There are no first prize winners this year. Prof. Jocelyn Bautista Palacpac served as adviser of all winning groups.

Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Awards
Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Awards for best published paper is in recognition to outstanding fisheries publication, particularly in the area of marine fisheries and aquaculture or inland fisheries. Sponsored by the Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research Development, criteria for the Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Awards include contribution to industry and science, technical quality, and sustainability.

The Awards has two categories, namely marine fisheries and aquaculture/inland fisheries. Bagging the best published paper in marine fisheries is the group of Dr. Wilfredo Licuanan of the Dela Salle University for the paper is entitled “A Decision Support Model for Determining Sizes of Marine Protected Areas: Biophysical Considerations”, which was published in The Philippine Agricultural Scientist, Vol. 89 No. 1 – March 2006. His co-authors include Dr. Porfirio Alino and Marie Antonette Menez of UP-Marine Science Institute, Dr. Wilfredo Campos of UP Visayas, and Dr. Gem Castillo of PEG.

Meanwhile, the 2006 Dr. Elvira O. Tan Memorial Awards for best published paper in aquaculture/inland fisheries went to Dr. Arnil C. Emata of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center. Dr. Emata’s winning paperis entitled “Reproductive Performance in Induced and Spontaneous Spawning of the Mangrove Red Snapper, Lutjanus argentimaculatus : A Potential Candidate Species for Sustainable Aquaculture” published in Aquaculture Research 2003, Vol. 34, pages 849-857.

Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Award
Bagging the grand Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Award for Aquatic Technology Enterprise is Paul Philip Cruz of the Cruz Aquaculture Corporation for his developed technologies that show big potential in making a significant impact to the economy and the society. Cruz developed the Kinetic Fish Feeder and Aquaranch Sea Cage, an all-weather sea cage that allows the growth of fish in the deeper seas. According to PCAMRD, the sea cage has higher carrying capacity, greater efficiency in feeding and harvesting. Aside from having low maintenance and depreciation costs, it is also more environment-friendly than other sea cages.

DOST Media Awards
Excellence in science reportage was also given distinction in print, radio, and cyber media in both professional and institutional categories.

In the professional category, winners include Melvin Calimag of Manila Bulletin Online for cyber, Julieta Cruz and Meliza Maluntag of DZEC’s “Una sa Lahat Pinoy!” for radio, and Maria Matilde Sabater of Manila Bulletin for print.

In the institutional category, the awards were clinched by Manila Bulletin Online for cyber, ABS-CBN’s DZMM for radio, and Manila Bulletin for print.

Given special citations were Marou Sarne, host of DWIZ’s “Womantalk”, and People’s Balita.

Future science champions
Gil Anthony E. Aquino of the Ateneo de Manila University bagged the championship in The Great Science Debate held during the NSTW, besting debaters from UP Diliman and Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Meanwhile, Kan Louise Nielsen P. Tejada of the Quezon City Science High School emerged as grand champion of the Pinoy SciTek Challenge, winning against quizzers from five other schools. His coach is Mr. Isal Kulong. (Framelia V. Anonas, S&T Media Service)