Guevarra: Let Ombudsman handle request to probe Acosta, Erfe
MANILA, Philippines–Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said he will leave it up to the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the allegations of corruption being hurled against Public Attorneys’ Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda Acosta and PAO forensics chief Erwin Erfe.
“On the request of some anonymous lawyers for an investigation, I will leave it to the Office of the Ombudsman. Bahala na si Ombudsman Samuel Martires,” Guevarra told reporters in an ambush interview on the sideline of the Justice Sector Coordinating Councils principal’s meeting at the New World Manila Bay Hotel.
PAO is one of the attached agencies of the Department of Justice (DOJ). An anonymous letter purportedly from PAO lawyers and employees was submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman asking for Acosta’s suspension.
The statement was filed as an intervention in support of a complaint filed last 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.
Based on the letter, Acosta and her allies in the financial and management service allegedly had a systematic scheme to defraud the agency by allegedly doctoring purchase orders to make more funds available to her.
They also accused Acosta and Erfe of creating the PAO forensic laboratory without authorization from Congress.
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 nag-operate, but the thing is, there is a DBM approval for that,” Guevarra added.
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.
Dr. Erfe has been a consultant of the PAO since 2005. The hiring of Erfe as consultant was approved by then Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin.
On Jan. 14, 2019, the DBM, through a letter informed Acosta of the creation of a Forensic Laboratory Division, which will be under the Office of the Chief Public Attorney.
Meanwhile, Acosta said the anonymous letter is fake. She said her agency’s efforts in assisting Dengvaxia victim which was sanctioned by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre are above board.
She expressed confidence that the Office of the Ombudsman will see that the allegations raised against her are not true. /jpv
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