Ombudsman probes PAO’s Acosta, Erfe for alleged corruption
Robie de Guzman • August 16, 2019 • 601
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.
MANILA, Philippines – Officials and employees of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) tagged in corruption allegations will face administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman, Malacañang said on Friday.
“Administrative charges over allegations of corrupt practices in office will be filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman, unless they opt to resign, and the prosecutors will ask for their immediate suspension,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
On Thursday night, President Rodrigo Duterte met with dozens of customs personnel in Malacañang.
Panelo said Duterte told them they will be given their day in court as part of the due process.
“The President has been forthright in telling these customs officials and employees that corruption has no place under his watch,” Panelo said.
“PRRD [President Rodrigo Roa Duterte] assured them that he would not begrudge them if they would avail of legal remedies to question their removal from office,” he added.
The president, Panelo said, “thanked them for accepting his invitation to meet him in Malacañang, which according to him, showed they still have respect for him.”
While waiting for the formal filing of charges, the said customs officials will be “in floating status without authority to act on official matters.”
The chief executive earlier ordered for the freezing of several high-ranking customs officials who were accused of corrupt practices in office.
“Let this serve as a reminder to all those officials or employees in the government that they cannot escape liability or accountability for their acts of corruption under the Duterte administration,” Panelo said. (with details from Rosalie Coz)
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
(L-R) former Health Secretary Janette Garin and current Health Secretary Francisco Duque III
MANILA, Philippines – The quest for justice for the victims of Dengvaxia continues as the Public Attorney’s Office today filed three more cases at the Department of Justice (DOJ.)
Respondents in the complaints include Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former Secretary Janette Garin along with other Department of Health (DOH) officials and executives of Sanofi Pastuer and Zuellig Pharma.
The new cases stem from the deaths of Marc Axl Eboña, Rei Jazztine Alimagno and Alexzander Jaime. The PAO forensic team is convinced that their deaths were the result of Dengvaxia injections.
“Sa aming assessment, napatunayan na po kung ano po ang causes of deaths nitong mga batang halos sunod-sunod na namatay. Hindi po ito coincidental lang na 53 na po ang nao-autopsy ng pao na mayroong common pattern,” PAO Chief Persida Acosta said.
(In our assessment, the causes of deaths of these children who died one after another are already confirmed. This is not coincidental. The PAO found a common pattern in 53 [victims] subjected to autopsy.)
Analyn Eboña, the mother of Marc Axl pleaded with President Rodrigo Duterte to act on the issue.
“Hanggang ngayon hindi ko pa po naririnig ang tinig niyo, mahal na pangulo. Lalo na sa akin na ang aking anak ay naturukan nang walang pahintulot ng magulang,” she said.
(Up to now, I have not heard your voice, dear President. Especially in my case, my child was injected without parental consent.)
There are already 9 criminal complaints filed by PAO with the DOJ over the Dengvaxia mess. The preliminary investigation on the first cases will begin next Tuesday.
Acosta said, the President’s plan to create a panel of foreign experts to probe Dengvaxia deaths will not affect their cases. – Roderic Mendoza | UNTV News & Rescue
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