The State of Forensic Pathology in the Philippines

The State of Forensic Pathology in the Philippines

Judging by the multitude of police procedural shows dominating the Philippine airwaves at present, Filipinos have an inordinate fondness for forensic drama. TV shows such as NCIS, Bones, and the CSI franchise offer an alternate universe where criminals are caught, justice is served, scene investigators know what they are doing, and forensic pathology is more than just a pipedream.

This serves as a contrast—maybe even a means of escapism—from the reality that forensic pathology in the Philippines is virtually non-existent.

The root of the problem with forensic science in the Philippines is not the lack of funding or outdated infrastructure. Rather, it is found in the paradigm the Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are working under. These organizations focus more on catching the bad guy by interviewing witnesses instead of establishing cause and manner of death by autopsy and crime scene investigation. This is an obsolete mind-set, studied for historical reasons but ultimately impractical in contemporary forensics.

This obsolete mind-set is reflected in the lack of infrastructure devoted to forensic pathology in the PNP system. There is only one body freezer in the entire Philippines, found in the PNP Headquarters in Camp Crame. Forensic autopsies are performed in hospitals, funeral homes, or even in the middle of a field, instead of a proper examination room, because the PNP simply does not have the facilities for a forensic pathologist to perform their work.

Aside from the lack of facilities for forensic pathologists, the databases used by the PNP and NBI are woefully inadequate for investigation due to lack of biometric data. Since the use of biometrics as a means of identification is relatively new in the Philippines, existing databanks are next to useless when all the investigators have to identify a perpetrator is bodily fluids.

For forensic science, especially forensic pathology, to flourish in the...

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