Public defenders as hakot crowd.
A prayer vigil with a free concert is going to be held in the evening of May 10, 2018 at the Center Stage of the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City.
Entitled “Ninos Inocentes, A Prayer Vigil For The Victims Of Dengvaxia,” the event features various artists like Jimmy Bondoc, Richard Reynoso, Nexxus, Robert Sena, Ynez Veneracion and other not-so-known musicians and performers.
Based on the promotional flyers of the event, the vigil cum concert is organized by NDM Studios, a little and obscure entity in the music and concert scene. But a background check of NDM Studios will show that it is active in producing promotional and propaganda videos for administration personalities and allies like Sara Duterte, Bong Go, Harry Roque, Mocha Uson and the Public Attorney’s Office (PAO). NDM stands for Njel De Mesa, a self-proclaimed singer and composer and a proud supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte.
It is not hard to see the connection between NDM Studios and PAO. The scheduled activity is supposedly for the Dengvaxia victims. PAO, on the other hand, is at the forefront of the controversy as it is the government office that is primarily assisting the families of children who allegedly died due to the Dengvaxia vaccine.
PAO and its chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, in fact, has been accused of politicizing this serious health issue and of capitalizing on the vulnerable emotions of the grieving loved ones of those children who died purportedly because of the vaccine.
Also, NDM Studios has been doing videos for PAO like the one featuring the dramatic and emotionally-charged footage of the filing of the family of supposed Dengvaxia victims of criminal cases against former and incumbent officials of the Department of Health, officials of Sanofi Pasteur, among others.
We are not questioning the right of the organizers to conduct activities like prayer vigils and concerts. It is part of our constitutionally-protected rights and freedoms to assemble, to express and to petition the government for our grievances.
Unfortunately, there is a catch.
PAO lawyers and staff from the National Capital Region (NCR) were directed to attend the event. The concert is free but the expected attendees are not free to say “no” if they don’t want to attend.
However, no formal memorandum or office order was issued either by the main office or the NCR regional office.
The reason for this is simple. Acosta and her minions know that the imposition on the PAO lawyers and staff to attend an unofficial, after-office-hour activity that has nothing to do with their duties as public attorneys and office staff is unlawful.
Acosta and the other high officials of PAO are aware that any written directive or order making attendance to the prayer vigil and concert compulsory can be used against them.
But just because no formal order was issued does not mean that the PAO chief and her cohorts are already off the hook. Acosta cannot circumvent the civil service rules and applicable laws and escape criminal and administrative liability by not documenting her requirement for the PAO personnel to attend the activity.
Although made informally and sans a written document, the directive remains to be in the nature of a coercive and authoritative imposition that failure or refusal to comply shall have a corresponding penalty.
Aside from violating the civil service rules on prohibition on engaging in partisan political activity, loafing and unauthorized activities outside the scope of a public employee’s official mandate, Acosta and the other PAO high officials can be made criminally liable too for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and possibly the Revised Penal Code provision on coercion for forcing PAO lawyers and staff to participate in a mass action organized to promote a political cause.
Another valid matter that should be addressed are the expenses for the event. The concert is free. So without profits to be gained, who will pay the organizer, NDM Studios, and the performing artists during the concert? It is unlikely that the money will come from Acosta’s personal funds. An inquiry should be made to ensure that no public funds were used and misappropriated for this extracurricular activity.
It is a wonder why Acosta and PAO needed to use a hakot crowd just to show that there is a snowballing of support for its Dengvaxia crusade. If they really believe that they are fighting a genuine and worthy cause, people, PAO employees or not, will voluntarily go to the activity and will generously give their support and sympathy for their efforts.
On the contrary, the deceitful attempt to make it appear that there is massive support for PAO and Acosta’s destructive obsession with Dengvaxia speaks volume of the moral bankruptcy of their misguided advocacy.