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PDEA unveils PH’s premier drug forensic lab

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) on Friday launched its new Laboratory Service building, touted as the premier drug forensic center in the country, located at the PDEA national headquarters in Quezon City.

PDEA director general Aaron Aquino said the three-storey building features upgraded security system in its evidence room, including high-definition closed circuit television cameras and fire suppressing equipment.

“This is part of our continuing capability enhancement program for safekeeping of drug evidence. As the lead agency in the country’s anti-drug campaign, the integrity of PDEA in safekeeping of all pieces of drug evidence is of paramount importance,” Aquino said, adding that air conditioning units, exhaust fans and dehumidifiers were installed for the physical preservation of evidence.

PDEA said the construction of the new building was made possible through the financial assistance of Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Aquino said the PDEA Laboratory Service is the only forensic laboratory in the country that conducts impurity profiling of methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as shabu. It can determine the linkage between drug samples.

A collaborative research with the Advance Device and Materials Testing Laboratory, Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology, entitled Application of Multivariate Analysis on Methamphetamine Hydrochloride Fingerprints and Kinetic Stability Modelling, will be conducted to improve PDEA’s capability in drug profiling.

“As part of its capability enhancement effort, the Laboratory Service has a multi-million analytical equipment of forensic laboratories and additional analytical instruments to be acquired soon,” Aquino said.

Among these is one unit of Liquid Chromatograph with quadruple Time-of Flight- tandem Mass Spectrometry to further enhance its drug impurity profiling of cocaine.

“Necessary training in hands-on operation, proper handling, maintenance, trouble shooting of these pieces of equipment are given priority considering their value and use in laboratory analysis by our chemists,” Aquino said.

To further improve the laboratory service’s profiling capabilities, he added, PDEA will soon acquire a multi-million analytical equipment of forensic laboratories and additional analytical instruments.

The PDEA Laboratory Service began operating in 2006 with only seven organic chemists. To cater to the increasing number of seized dangerous drugs and precursors, PDEA said it was able to establish regional laboratories across the country.

“At present, PDEA has a total of 66 chemists deployed to the regional offices nationwide. Chemists both in national and regional laboratories of PDEA underwent the Basic Forensic Training Course prior to their deployment in their areas of assignment. They are sent to various foreign trainings to be updated on drug analysis. Senior chemists from PDEA national and regional offices attended the Advanced Drug Forensic Chemist Training Course to enhance their knowledge on drug analysis,” said Aquino.

PDEA said its Laboratory Service consistently obtains 100 percent correct identification of illicit drug substances in its participation in the International Collaborative Exercises Program conducted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna, Austria, making it the only forensic laboratory in the country to attain 100 percent accuracy in international proficiency testing.

Aquino also said an online drug inventory system will be developed in all PDEA regional offices to automate its inventory system through tagging and bar coding of evidence for speedy and accurate documentation and accounting of evidence.

PDEA, through the laboratory service, is responsible for the destruction of dangerous drugs, controlled precursors and essential chemicals (CPECs) as well as laboratory equipment seized and those confiscated by other law enforcement agencies upon the order of the court.

Since 2002, PDEA has burned two tons of dangerous drugs, CPECs and billions worth of laboratory equipment.#