PAO chief says corruption allegations meant to derail Dengvaxia case


Posted at Aug 16 2019 08:05 AM | Updated as of Aug 16 2019 08:31 AM

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MANILA - The head of the Public Attorney's Office said Friday that corruption allegations against her were meant to hurt the cases filed by her office over the deaths of several children allegedly caused by dengue vaccine Dengvaxia.

A manifestation by unnamed PAO lawyers accused their boss Persida Rueda-Acosta of using purchase orders for office supplies to obtain extra funds for her agency. Acosta and her forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe were also accused of using PAO funds for coffins, shirts and tarpaulins used in rallies against Dengvaxia.

"Dalawang dekada na ho ako d'yan [sa PAO]. Iyung aming pondo halos puro pangsweldo lamang. Anong kokorapin namin d'yan? " Acosta told radio DZMM

(I have been there for 2 decades. Our funds are mainly for the salary of employees. What funds will we pocket there?)

"Marami na pong nangyari sa buhay ko noong araw na biglang manggugulo na ang gusto matanggal ako sa pwesto dahil gusto nila iyung kanilang mga kaso ay maipanalo nila... Kasi ang linaw po ng ebidensya d'yan sa Dengvaxia," she said.

(I have had a lot of experience in which trouble would suddenly arise because some people want to remove me from office to win their case. The evidence against Dengvaxia is strong.)

The government in late 2017 stopped the sale of Dengvaxia and its use in the immunization of schoolchildren after its maker warned that the drug may cause more severe symptoms if given to those who have not had the mosquito-borne disease.
PAO has autopsied the remains of 144 children who allegedly died after getting the vaccine, said Acosta. The DOH and several health experts, however, have insisted that there is no established link between Dengvaxia and the alleged deaths.
Some 100 PAO lawyers on Thursday denied that they were behind the manifestation that demanded Acosta's suspension, she said.

PAO, she added, get the bulk of its supplies from he budget department.

Acosta challenged lawyer Wilfredo Garrido Jr., who filed the manifestation against her, to prove the corruption allegations or risk disbarment.

"Madaling sabihin na ikaw ay ganito-ganito, pero patunayan mo," she said.

(It's easy to say that someone is like this, but prove it.)