Ombudsman acts on PAO corruption complaints, starts probe

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

After receiving complaints regarding the alleged corruption of Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Rueda Acosta and Forensic Laboratory Chief Dr. Erwin Erfe involving the controversial Dengvaxia case, the Office of the Ombudsman said on Friday that it will be conducting a preliminary investigation, and administrative adjudication against the two.

Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)
Office of the Ombudsman (MANILA BULLETIN)

Acosta and Erfe were initially slapped with a complaint for violations of Sections 3(e) and 3(j) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices, Falsification by Public Officer, Malversation and Illegal Use of Public Funds or Property.

Administrative charges for Grave Misconduct, Serious Dishonesty, Grave Abuse of Authority and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service were also filed against them.

The complainant, lawyer Wilfredo Garrido, Jr., said in his complaint filed on April this year that the PAO Forensic Laboratory was created without any mandate from Congress. The complainant said Acosta did this solely to cater to her whims and caprices.

The laboratory, manned primarily by Erfe, reportedly conjures evidence which the Philippine National Police (PNP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Crime Laboratories might refuse to produce.

Garrido accused Acosta of using the PAO Forensic Laboratory to “prove her case,” especially with regards to the highly controversial Dengvaxia case.

Her and Erfe’s suspension was sought so that they would not be able to tamper with evidence related to the case.
Then on August 8, the Ombudsman once again received a pleading entitled “Manifestation with Prayer for Public Respondents Immediate Preventive Suspension from Office.” It was signed by alleged “DOJ PAO Reporters.”

This time, Acosta and Erfe were being accused of corruption through the procurement of office supplies. They were also accused of using PAO funds for the purchase of tarpaulins and t-shirts that were used for rallies, aside from paying for the funeral expenses of dead Dengvaxia victims.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires said that “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.”