Role of DNA in forensic science


  • Maria Corazon A. De Ungria ⋅ PH Natural Sciences Research Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman


DNA is the most powerful tool for human identification. Since the invention of DNA fingerprinting in 1984, also referred to as DNA profiling or genotyping, the technology has assisted forensic investigations by identifying sources of biological samples found in crime scenes, identifying victims of crimes or mass disasters, and in filiation/kinship testing. In 1996, the DNA Analysis Laboratory was established at the University of the Philippines Diliman as the research arm that would work with the two law enforcement agencies, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police, in developing the science of forensic DNA in the country. The presentation will provide an update on how forensic DNA technology is now being used in the Philippines and the need to maximize its use to protect our communities.

About the Speaker

Maria Corazon A. De Ungria, Natural Sciences Research Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman

Maria Corazon De Ungria is a molecular biologist with a Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. Since her return in 1999, she has been the Head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Natural Sciences Research Institute at the University of the Philippines Diliman (UP Diliman). Concurrently, she is the Director of the Program on Biodiversity, Ethnicity, and Forensics at the Philippine Genome Center. Dr. Cora holds the sole University Research V position in UP Diliman. In addition, Dr. Cora was promoted to Career Scientist IV in the Scientific Career System (SCS) of the Department of Science and Technology and the Civil Service Commission on 20 May 2022.
Her research endeavors focus on human genetic diversity and maximizing the use of DNA as a forensic tool for human identification in criminal investigations. Over and above the technical aspect of science itself, her work involves discovering how science can help address societal concerns in the Philippines. With this line of research, the DNA Analysis Laboratory has received institutional recognitions such as the 2019 Outstanding Institution Award from the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) and the 2022 Galing Award for Natatanging Grupo from UP Diliman.
A valuable part of Dr. Cora's contribution to Philippine governance was her work on the Rule on DNA Evidence with the Research Group of the Philippine Judicial Academy. After more than six years of continuous technical exchange, the Supreme Court finally promulgated the Rule on DNA Evidence in 2007. Since then, all Philippine courts have followed the Rule when DNA evidence is presented in any given case.
She also advocates for the need for effective research communication to the public, science-driven national policies on forensic DNA databases, institutional protection of the rights of vulnerable populations, e.g., indigenous peoples, and proper institutional governance to ensure the ethical conduct of research in the Philippines. Dr. Cora identifies herself as a changemaker who uses "DNA" as her catalyst for change.



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How to Cite

MCA De Ungria, Role of DNA in forensic science, Proceedings of the Samahang Pisika ng Pilipinas 40, SPP-2022-INV-2F-01 (2022). URL: