Acosta accused of using Dengvaxia issue for corruption in PAO

Adrian Ayalin and Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2019 11:24 AM | Updated as of Aug 15 2019 05:46 PM

PAO chief says complaint a 'demolition job'

MANILA (UPDATE) - Lawyers from the Public Attorneys Office have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to issue a preventive suspension order against PAO chief Persida Acosta and her forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe for alleged corruption in the agency.

Lawyer Wilfredo Garrido Jr. filed the manifestation for unnamed PAO lawyers from the Executive Support Staff Field Operations and Statistics Office and Legal Research Service who are “privy to the daily activities and transactions” of Acosta and Erfe relating to the Dengvaxia vaccine.

It was alleged that Acosta has two “loyal” certified public accountants named Lira Hosea Suangco and Maveric Sales who are tasked to maintain office supplies such as bond paper to be used for the Dengvaxia cases.

“When the funds were released, it was immediately surrendered to respondent Acosta. The funds that were intended for the purchase of office supplies were never used for its intended purpose,” the complaint said.

Acosta, who has been criticizing the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine during the term of former president Benigno Aquino III, was also accused of using purchase orders to be able to obtain extra funds for the agency.

“Respondent Acosta has ordered her cohorts to edit, revise and antedate PAO’s purchase requests, purchase orders, procurement forms, memoranda, and other documentation in order to make it seem legitimate and to justify the diversion of the PAO’s budget to the Dengvaxia victims,” the complaint said.

It was also alleged that Acosta and Erfe are using PAO funds to purchase tarpaulins, T-shirts and coffins to be used in rallies.

There was also a “workshop” on “pending Dengvaxia cases” in June this year at the Century Park Hotel.

“Intervenors respectfully implore the honorable office to use its power to conduct and investigation against respondents Acosta and Erfe,” the complaint said.

Acosta said the complaint was a "demolition job" and "media blitz" meant to "harass PAO and its attorneys and staff by using fake, falsified document."

She said such act was punishable under the Revised Penal Code.

"The manifestation is a mere scrap of paper... no evidence attached to substantiate the mere allegations... anybody who would use such can be charged of libel and use of falsified document," she said when asked to comment.


Sought for comment, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said he would leave it up to the Office of the Ombudsman to act on the PAO lawyers' complaint.
“So itong request ng mga (So this request of) some anonymous PAO lawyers for, I think, the suspension, in the meantime of the PAO chief, we’ll leave that to the Office of the Ombudsman. Bahala na si (It’s up to) Ombudsman Martires on that,” Guevarra told reporters on the sidelines of an event in a Manila hotel.

Guevarra said he was not in a position to comment on each of the allegations but made a statement with respect to the charges of Garrido, who had earlier filed a complaint against Acosta before the Ombudsman, accusing her of illegally creating the PAO Forensic Laboratory, which Erfe heads.
“I really cannot comment on that because that is already being investigated. But based on what I know, Chief Acosta mentioned to me that the creation of that office was with the approval of the DBM. But that’s all that I can say because the matter is under investigation,” he said.

PAO is under the Department of Justice.

Guevarra said Acosta mentioned this in passing when she sought his clearance to travel to Malta.
“I think she has submitted her counter-affidavit and other controverting evidence. So we’ll leave it to the Ombudsman, Justice Martires, to resolve that as soon as possible,” he said.