Ombudsman investigates PAO chief for graft and corruption

MANILA – The Office of the Ombudsman is conducting preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication against Chief Public Attorney Persida Rueda-Acosta and Dr. Erwin Erfe, Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Forensic Laboratory, on corruption allegations within the agency including the controversial Dengvaxia vaccine issue.

It will be recalled that after the complaints filed by Wilfredo Garrido, Jr., were evaluated and docketed on April 11, 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman immediately issued an order a day after, or on April 12, 2019, 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.  On the other hand, 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.

Consequently, on April 30, 2019, Acosta and Erfe filed a Consolidated Counter-affidavit.  Meanwhile, on April 29, 2019, an “Urgent Motion for Preventive Suspension” was filed by complainant, Wilfredo Garrido, Jr. and on May 2, 2019, Acosta filed her “Comment and/or Opposition to the Motion for Preventive Suspension.”

During the course of the investigation, several other pleadings were filed by the respective parties.

On August 8, 2019, the Office of the Ombudsman received a pleading entitled “Manifestation with Prayer for Public Respondents Immediate Preventive Suspension from Office.”

The pleading was signed by alleged “DOJ PAO lawyers.”

As of August 6, 2019, the parties were directed to file their respective verified position papers containing their positions, supporting evidence and defenses.

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.”