MANILA - Public Attorney's Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta has slammed corruption allegations filed against her by her subordinates, describing the claims as "concocted to malign" her and the agency.
In a consolidated counter-affidavit filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Acosta said the allegations of fund misuse in relation to her crusade against dengue vaccine Dengvaxia had no basis.
"I vehemently deny all the accusations brandished against me for being unfounded, malicious, baseless, fabricated and concocted to malign me and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) which I head," Acosta said.
PAO lawyers earlier asked the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend Acosta and her forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe while investigating their corruption complaint.
The lawyers alleged that she had "ordered her cohorts to edit, revise and antedate PAO’s purchase requests, purchase orders, procurement forms, memoranda, and other documentation... to justify the diversion of the PAO’s budget to the Dengvaxia victims."
PAO has been representing families of children who had allegedly fallen victim to the ill effects of the dengue vaccine, the use of which was halted in 2017 after its maker Sanofi Pasteur warned of risks.
The PAO chief said the case against her was a "demolition job" intended to protect health officials who were implicated in the Dengvaxia mess.
Acosta, however, did not respond to allegations that PAO funds were used to procure tarpaulins, T-shirts and coffins to be used in rallies against Dengvaxia.
Acosta instead focused on proving that she did not intend to create a hype on alleged Dengvaxia-related deaths to divert funds to these cases.
"The undersigned did not fan public anger, neither did she paint deaths," she said
"The undersigned never spread hysteria with unfounded claims. The reason why the findings of the forensic examinations are made known to the public is done in the spirit of transparency and openness," she said.
Acosta earlier claimed the PAO autopsied the bodies of 113 alleged Dengvaxia victims, but that the total number of those affected has reached 600.
The Department of Health earlier said Acosta's "baseless" claims against the government's suspended dengue vaccination program have "seriously damaged" Filipinos' confidence in vaccines.
In response to this, Acosta said in her affidavit: "The vaccine scare is brought about by the public distrust on vaccines."
Acosta also defended her earlier decision to create the PAO Forensic Laboratory, saying it was necessary and that "no public funds were misappropriated nor used other than for what they were intended for by law."
"The PAO Forensic Laboratory is aimed to promote the office’s capacity building and manpower empowerment to answer the needs of the PAO clients who are victims of evidence manipulations, wife battering, child abuse, sexual molestation, fraud, torture, mysterious deaths, natural and man-made disasters, and those who are wrongfully accused or convicted because of false forensic evidence," she said in her 45-page affidavit.
- With a report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News