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Sen. Grace Poe’s crucial test

Sen. Grace Poe has practically hurdled all tests to her presidential run, except one crucial test—a DNA test that will prove beyond reasonable doubt that one or both of her parents are Filipinos.

Several patients have asked me in the last several weeks exactly what the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is all about, and how it could seem so “all-knowing” about one’s identity.

The DNA is an intertwined double-helix molecule and the two DNA strands look like a spiral staircase. Ultra-tiny or microscopic as it is, our DNA is the template or blueprint that carries almost all the genetic instructions about ourselves—how we would look like; how our cells, tissues and organs would develop; how they would function or malfunction; the diseases we’re prone to develop; and so many other things.

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DNA is so unique for each individual, similar to one’s fingerprint. So it can be used to identify a person, as was done to establish the identity of Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, a high-ranking terrorist who was killed during the Mamasapano encounter.

Since one’s DNA comes from both parents, it can also establish who one’s parents are. Usually it’s used for paternity testing, to establish who the father of a child is, when there’s some doubt who the real father is. But definitely, though infrequently used for this purpose, it can also be used for maternity testing, to establish who one’s biological mother is.

There’s also a sibling DNA test which can show that two individuals have the same biological parent, either the father or the mother, or both.
Accuracy Blood or serum is not the only source for one’s DNA. Any tissue from the body, including gum tissues obtained through a swab, hair follicles, skin, muscles and bones, can provide one’s genetic blueprint contained in the DNA.

It’s not true that the test can only be done abroad. It can be accurately done right here in our country, and the results could be provided in a week, even two to three days, if the test is rushed. Well, as to cost, it varies markedly, but it’s usually over P10,000 per test. It used to cost a lot more before (around P50,000 per test), when only a few laboratories were doing it.

In civil or criminal suits, or any instance that requires an almost absolute certainty on one’s real biologic identity, as in Senator Poe’s case, why do the courts heavily rely on the results of a DNA test?

As to accuracy, so long as the proper procedure is followed and no fraud is committed in conducting the test, laboratories doing the test claim a 99.99-percent accuracy rate. If the test is positive, there is only one in 10,000 chances that it is a false positive, meaning, that the father, mother or supposed siblings are not biologically related to the individual being tested. When the DNAs don’t match, there’s a zero probability that the individuals tested are biologically related. So when it comes to identifying one’s biological identity, the DNA test is the “Supreme Court.”

How could there be fraud in DNA testing? It rarely happens and I’m sure Senator Poe or her authorized representatives will not allow any swapping of specimen samples, or any other shenanigan that would produce false or inaccurate results. The laboratory or hospital doing the test puts their integrity at stake as to the accuracy of the results, and that the specimens came from who they were supposed to have come from. However, our

Supreme Court has to look into the manner the DNA tests were conducted, from the collection of the specimen to the actual laboratory procedure, and to ensure that the standard procedure was followed strictly. Any breach in the protocol should invalidate the results.

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At the rate Senator Poe’s camp is doing its quest for her biological parents, it will take a lot longer time to find out who her real parents are. They will be exhuming many more bodies and spending several more millions, with a probability of a positive hit or match remaining nil. They should follow a more scientifically methodical manner of screening their possible DNA specimen sources. There’s only one hitch—anything methodical requires a slow, painstaking, careful and deliberate process. It cannot be rushed as what they have to do now.

Time constraint

If there is a serious time constraint, high-percentage screening must be done. Those with the highest probability of a match should be prioritized.

Since there is a widespread perception that the late president Ferdinand Marcos could be her father—and his son, Sen. Bongbong Marcos is willing to subject himself to the test—I would consider it a high-percentage screening to do a DNA test on him. Since Senator Poe is confident that the rumor is absolutely without basis, then this will be an absolute proof to that which can put the gossip mill to rest once and for all. Her decision to shun doing the test on Senator Bongbong only fans the gossip flame some more.

I’m sure Senator Poe has learned a lot from this debacle. One important lesson is that we can never run away from the truth. Whatever the truth is concerning her real biological parents will not define her as a person or as a public servant. What her real character is, and what she has made of herself despite the challenges, and how she handles whatever raw deal some people are giving her right now are just some of the hard parameters that will really define her as a person. The truth sets one free, and the liberation one gets from finding out even a painful truth can be so empowering.

I had the privilege to meet her once when she was our keynote speaker in our annual convention almost two years ago. I told her she’s destined for greater things for our country. I still think so, but she must not sabotage her own destiny.

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TAGS: column, dna test, health and science, rafael r. Castillo, senator grace poe
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