Over 80 PAO lawyers deny calling for suspension of Acosta, Erfe
MANILA, Philippines – At least 84 lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) have denied asking the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend chief Persida Acosta and forensics chief Dr. Erwin Erfe, disputing an anonymous manifestation reported by various news sites.
In the manifesto released on Thursday, the lawyers collectively called the supposed requests as fake news, saying that they have never written such documents.
“In order to shed light on the matter, the undersigned public attorneys herein categorically deny the alleged subject anonymous manifestation that has become the subject of fake news,” the PAO lawyers said in their declaration.
“We did not write the subject manifestation, nay submitted the same to Office of the Ombudsman. Obviously, the manifestation was fabricated by someone else; unscrupulous person/s who resort to shady schemes and strategies to advance their personal cause,” they added.
On Thursday, reports said that an anonymous set of lawyers from PAO — with Salary Grades 26 and above — claimed that Acosta and her allies in the financial management service employed a “systematic scheme” to defraud the government.
According to anonymous lawyers, Acosta and others doctored purchase orders to make funds available to them. The lawyers supposedly did not identify themselves for fear of retribution.
In the manifestation, Acosta was accused of benefitting from the Dengvaxia controversy, by justifying that more office supplies were needed amid audit observations that they had an excess of more than P13.1 million worth of items.
Sanofi pulled out the medicine in 2017 over fears of adverse reaction among vaccinated seronegative patients or those who did not contract the dengue virus prior to vaccination.
Acosta led the investigation on the deaths among children and some adults, allegedly brought by the Sanofi Pasteur’s dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. Erfe meanwhile conducted the post-mortem examination of the patients, concluding that Dengvaxia was the cause of the deaths.
The dissenting PAO lawyers insist that the anonymous manifestation may be an attempt to discredit the office and prevent it from operating independently.
“As we perceive it, the malicious and derogatory statements contained therein are intended to malign the PAO and other named officials therein, and prevent them from independently performing their duties to render free of charge, legal representation, assistance, and counseling to indigent persons,” the lawyers said.
“It is a demolition job; an affront to the independence and integrity of PAO,” they added./ac
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