Persida aptly described | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

Persida aptly described

/ 04:04 AM September 30, 2019

It took only two ingredients to make the lethal cocktail: a populist government out to find the criminal liability of its predecessor, and a public attorney wanting brownie points for promotion. The result: dengue cases rising by 98 percent, the return of polio and, soon, diphtheria. The country’s top epidemiologists agree all these are caused by a reckless phobia of vaccination thanks to Public Attorney’s Office chief Persida Acosta.

In “How Persida Acosta carved out her fiefdom,” reader and Makati-based practicing lawyer Wilfredo Garrido Jr. regales us with a well-researched history of Acosta and the road to our pestilence.


“She is a bureaucracy unto herself, commanding an army of more than 500 lawyers at her beck and call. Nominally under the Secretary of Justice, she sits untouchable in her autonomy, protected by a security of tenure clause in the PAO Law that she herself shepherded through Congress. Her share in the budget of the DOJ is second only to the National Prosecution Service (the army of fiscals), nearly doubling under Duterte from P2.6 billion to P4.2 billion.”

“The PAO used to be a very small office prior to her 2001 appointment, a backwater called Citizens Legal Assistance Office, low paying, unglamorous, tasked with defending indigents. Ask then a newly passed lawyer if he wanted to work at CLAO and he would look at you askance.”


“Today, due in part to her spell on Congress, an entry level PAO attorney rakes in at least P100,000 a month, more than any law firm in Makati can afford. So attractive are its pay and perks that an attorney is willing to serve five years on probation in PAO before being regularized.”

“How did she manage to grow PAO so fast and so big? Take as many cases as possible and if it generates publicity, with both hands. Have a quarrel with your neighbor? Go to PAO. Angry somebody kicked your dog? There’s PAO to get you justice.”

“No case is frivolous enough to be turned down by PAO if she has not met her yearly quota of 15 percent more cases than last year. If she fancies it, she will even accompany you to court and make a scene so it will make the headlines.”

“Of course she hit her quota pretty quickly when she took on the Dengvaxia cases which burned through the resources of PAO. Don’t be surprised if you get turned down after a quarrel with
your neighbor.”

“She even hit upon the idea of creating a PAO Forensics Laboratory to process evidence, even though only Congress can create an office. She did not always agree with the PNP and NBI crime lab experts. Note the cases of Kian de los Santos, Kulot and Christine Silawan — her evidence at war with the evidence of the PNP and NBI.”

“During the PNoy administration, the Civil Service Commission tried to get her fired on the ground that she sits in an executive position above Division Chief level, therefore she must take a Career Executive Service Office eligibility qualifying exam. Why take an exam when she was already a lawyer? And besides she was a cum laude graduate. Such were her specious arguments.”

“Unbeknownst to many, she did take the exam sometime in 2003— and flunked. Of the 80 percent passing rate, she got 55 percent. Among her scores in individual subjects: logical reasoning, 9 (no surprise there as she reasons with non-sequitur: ‘bakit ako sisisihin sa dengue, ako ba ay lamok?’). The CSC took this as evidence she was aware of the eligibility requirement, but Persida swept it under the rug and to this day she will maintain she is even qualified for the Supreme Court.”


“She ingratiated herself with Duterte by turning herself into a superheroine of the unwashed masses by running the biggest, most expensive ambulance-chasing operation in history—the Dengvaxia cases. What you do not know is she used these cases to bloat her office budget to 23% this year.”

“Her scaremongering has led to a collapse of public faith in vaccines, exposing the wider population to epidemics, including the scourge of polio. Hundreds have died already of dengue, none scientifically proven to have died from Dengvaxia.”

“Every death must be laid squarely at her feet.”

On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: Dengue, PAO, Persida Acosta, public attorney’s office
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