PAO chief accused of scheming to defraud government

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said he will leave it up to the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the allegation of corruption raised against Public Attorneys’ Office chief Persida Rueda-Acosta and forensics chief Erwin Erfe.

PAO chief accused of scheming to defraud government
Persida Acosta
“On the request of some anonymous lawyers for an investigation, I will leave it to the Office of the Ombudsman,” Guevarra said, in an interview on the sidelines of the Justice Sector Coordinating Councils principal’s meeting at the New World Manila Bay Hotel.

Guevarra made the statement after PAO lawyers and employees accused Acosta and her allies in the financial and management service of systematic scheme to defraud the agency by allegedly doctoring purchase orders to make more funds available to her.

The PAO lawyers and employees did not identify themselves in the statement, saying they fear reprisal from Acosta.

They alleged that Acosta and Erfe created the PAO forensic laboratory without authorization from Congress.

The statement was filed as an intervention in support of a complaint filed in May by lawyer Wilfredo Garrido accusing Acosta and Erfe of graft, falsification of public documents, malversation of public funds, illegal use of public funds or property, as well as grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, grave abuse of authority and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of public service.

Garrido also said Acosta and Erfe has no authority to just create the forensic laboratory.

Both Garrido and the unidentified PAO lawyers and employees want Acosta suspended.

The DOJ chief though said Acosta told her the creation of the forensic laboratory was done with the approval of the Department of Budget and Management.

“She mentioned that to me in passing that the creation of the forensic laboratory was with the approval of the DBM. Presumably it was done before it operated, but the thing is, there is a DBM approval for that,” Guevarra said.

The PAO forensic laboratory hogged the limelight last year when it started the forensic investigation on the cause of deaths of children inoculated with the controversial anti-dengue vaccine, Dengvaxia, made by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur.

Acosta on Thursday slammed accusations of using the probe of cases of Dengvaxia-related deaths for her personal interest.

She said the manifestation for intervention filed by anonymous senders was “fake news,” and part of a demolition job to silence her and stop the filing of criminal charges against former and active Health officials before the Justice department.

Those behind the unsigned complaint could be held liable for falsification of documents “using the name of PAO,” she added.

Relatives of children who died after receiving the Dengvaxia vaccine in a school-based mass immunization program of the Department of Health filed multiple counts of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide against ex-Health secretary and now Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Philippine Children’s Medical Center director Julius Lecciones, other former and active health officials, and executives of Sanofi Pasteur Inc. and the vaccine distributor, Zuellig Pharma Corp. before the Department of Justice.

READ: Ombudsman orders PAO chief to answer graft charges 

READ: PAO chief says she’s not liable for the creation of forensic lab

Topics: Menardo Guevarra , Office of the Ombudsman , Public Attorneys’ Office , Persida Rueda-Acosta
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