PUBLIC Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida Acosta continues to enjoy President Rodrigo Duterte’s trust as the corruption allegations against her have yet to be proven, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after PAO employees asked the Office of the Ombudsman to issue a preventive suspension order against Acosta and her forensics chief, Dr. Erwin Erfe, for alleged corruption in the agency.
“Eh palagi naman si Presidente hanggang walang findings of probable cause, palaging nandun ang trust,” Panelo told reporters in a press conference.
“Pero ‘pag may probable cause na, ibang usapan na ‘yun. Then there will be suspension galing sa Ombudsman. Eh hindi naman teritoryo ni Presidente yun eh,” he added.
Panelo, who also serves as Duterte’s top legal counsel, said that the President would not interfere in the case of Acosta.
“Well if there’s a case in the Ombudsman then we will let the Ombudsman do its work,” the Palace official said.
“As a matter of policy, the President does not interfere in the works, functions, activity of any constitutional body or any branch of the government. Let the law takes its course,” he added.
Asked if the Palace will ask Acosta to take a leave of absence pending the investigation, Panelo said, “Na kay chief Acosta na yun (That’s up to chief Acosta).
Lawyers from the PAO had asked the Ombudsman to suspend Acosta, saying that she and her allies in the financial and management service had a “systematic scheme” for defrauding the government by doctoring purchase orders to make agency funds available to the agency’s head.
Lawyer Wilfredo Garrido filed the manifestation for unnamed PAO staff members from the Executive Support Staff Field Operations and Statistics Office and Legal Research Service “privy to the daily activities and transactions” of Acosta and Erfe relating to the Dengvaxia vaccine.
It was alleged that Acosta has two “loyal” certified public accountants identified as Lira Hosea Suangco and Maveric Sales who are tasked to maintain office supplies such as bond paper to be used for the Dengvaxia cases.
“When the funds were released, it was immediately surrendered to respondent Acosta. The funds that were intended for the purchase of office supplies were never used for its intended purpose,” the complaint said.
Acosta, who has been criticizing the use of the Dengvaxia vaccine during the term of then president Benigno Aquino 3rd, was also accused of using purchase orders to be able to obtain extra funds for the agency.
“Respondent Acosta has ordered her cohorts to edit, revise and antedate PAO’s purchase requests, purchase orders, procurement forms, memoranda, and other documentation in order to make it seem legitimate and to justify the diversion of the PAO’s budget to the Dengvaxia victims,” the complaint said. CATHERINE S. VALENTE