Duque hits PAO: Stop ‘baseless’ claims that destroy public trust in DOH, vaccines
Marje Pelayo • February 1, 2019 • 2248
MANILA, Philippines — Health Secretary Francisco Duque III expressed dismay over Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta’s continuous attacks on the Department of Health (DOH) over the Dengvaxia controversy.
In a statement released on Thursday (January 31), Duque cited Acosta’s recent interview where she accused the DOH of paying off families of alleged Dengvaxia victims P50,000 each to drop charges.
“This is malicious, baseless and a complete lie,” the Health Secretary said.
“Baseless statements like these cause serious damage to our reputation as the primary government entity mandated to protect the health of all Filipinos,” he added.
The official said the DOH has tried to reach out to government agencies, including PAO, to resolve the issues surrounding the controversial anti-dengue vaccine.
However, Duque said, the PAO led by Acosta “refuse to cooperate and continue to attack and throw baseless claims and accusations at the Department of Health” and the Health Secretary’s person.
Duque, along with other former and current officials of the DOH and executives of Dengvaxia manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur, is facing charges over the deaths of children who received the anti-dengue vaccine.
Duque noted that Acosta’s accusations resulted in “a decline in vaccine confidence and a rise in cases of measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases” in the country.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines, measles cases in the country skyrocketed to 17, 298 cases from January to November 2018, a staggering 367% increase than 3,706 cases in the same period in 2017.
On its Facebook account, the WHO Philippines noted that: “Unvaccinated young children are at highest risk of measles and its complications, including death. Have your children vaccinated at the nearest health center.”
Even President Rodrigo Duterte himself urged the public to get vaccinated and “not to be lulled and be complacent” as children, especially infants, are susceptible to viral and bacterial diseases.
In his statement, Duque called on his fellow public servants to work together and “collectively find solutions to the problems” instead of creating divisions.
“We must work around facts backed by reliable evidence,” he said implying of Acosta’s accusations.
He also lamented that despite the DOH’s efforts to help the Filipinos, especially the poor, as the primary health care provider in the country, their actions are being “twisted” and “taken negatively”.
He cited instances that Health staff who are facilitating the support groups on the ground “are being bullied and harassed at every instance”.
“I strongly call on those with negative intentions to stop propagating baseless allegations and stop harassing our staff,” the Health Secretary concluded. – Marje Pelayo
MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman on Friday confirmed it is investigating Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) chief Persida Acosta and Forensic Laboratory chief Dr. Erwin Erfe for alleged graft and corruption.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said it is currently conducting preliminary and administrative adjudication against Acosta and Erfe on corruption allegations within PAO including the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine issue.
The case stemmed from the complaints filed early this year by lawyer Wilfredo Garrido Jr. who sought for the suspension of Acosta and Erfe for allegedly committing corruption, falsification, malversation and illegal use of public funds or property.
The two PAO officials supposedly made money in alleged illegal purchases of office supplies for their crusade against Dengvaxia in 2018.
Acosta was also accused of using PAO budget to hold seminars at luxury hotels as she supposedly receives a commission for every gathering.
The Ombudsman said that after Garrido’s complaints were evaluated and docketed in April 2019, an order was immediately issued, directing the respondents to file their respective counter-affidavits.
“Records from the criminal and administrative cases show that respondents are facing criminal charges for violation of Sections 3(e) and 3(j) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices), Falsification by Public Officer, Malversation and Illegal Use of Public Funds or Property,” the statement read.
Administrative charges for Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty, Grave Abuse of Authority and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service, were also leveled against Acosta and Erfe,” it added.
Acosta and Erfe have denied the allegations in a consolidated counter-affidavit they filed last April 30.
The Office of the Ombudsman said several other pleadings were filed by the respective parties during the course of the investigation, including the one signed by alleged “DOJ PAO lawyers.”
The Ombudsman said that as of August, the parties were directed to file their respective verified position papers containing their positions, supporting evidence and defenses.
“The corruption allegations against the high-ranking PAO officials will be judiciously scrutinized and the cases shall be resolved solely on the basis of the evidence presented by the parties,” Ombudsman Samuel Martires said.
Malacañang earlier said it will not interfere with the case.
“The vaccines that we are mentioning is not a solution or a silver bullet for the ongoing outbreak. We are open to any discussion with the health authorities to see what is needed, what do they need for the future,” Zinsou said.
In February this year, the FDA revoked the certificate of product registration of Dengvaxia.
Sanofi already filed an appeal two weeks ago and the DOH will release their decision on the issue on August 19.—AAC (with reports from Aiko Miguel)
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