sexual harassment

Malacañang fires assistant solicitor general for sexual harassment

Lian Buan

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Malacañang fires assistant solicitor general for sexual harassment

OSG. A bus of the Office of the Solicitor General parked in Mile Long, Makati.

LeAnne Jazul/Rappler

Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra has appointed an OIC to the concerned division

An assistant solicitor general (ASG) with a spotty record of sexual harassment has been fired by Malacañang, and while the decision has been appealed, Rappler learned that an officer-in-charge (OIC) has already been appointed to the vacated division in the Office of the Solicitor General.

ASG Derek Puertollano, who is a career official, was dismissed from service over three administrative charges of sexual harassment prompted by a complaint from his legal interns.

“These harrowing incidents left complainants traumatized, scarring them both for life,” said Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin in his decision dated February 20. He found Puertollano administratively liable for the grave offense of sexual harassment through unwanted touching of private part of the body, and the less grave offenses of sexual harassment through unwanted touching or brushing against a victim’s body, and through surreptiously looking at a person’s private part.

Rappler has learned that Puertollano is appealing the decision, but Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra has already appointed an OIC to the vacated legal division. Rappler has sent an email to Puertollano seeking his statement. We will update this story once he responds.

Puertollano was involved in a separate sexual abuse case in 2016, according to reports from Manila Standard and Philippine Star. Based on the reports, he was charged in the US with intent to sexually abuse a minor, an incident that happened during official business when he was attending a seminar on international arbitration.

Evidently, Puertollano was able to keep his job.

The present charges stemmed from the complaint of two male legal interns of the OSG who went with Puertollano in an out-of-town business trip mid-year 2022.

According to the documents, Puertollano maneuvered the hotel room assignments so he could be in the same room as his two interns. One of them complained about Puertollano taking a shower in his full view with the door ajar. When it was the victim taking a shower, Puertollano went to the bathroom despite his protestation and the victim said he felt his boss’ “hand brush my butt cheek.”

The other complained about inappropriate remarks while the ASG looked at his crotch, while following him to the urinal, and while sleeping in separate beds that were pushed together by Puertollano. The ASG was accused of “touching [the victim’s] feet under the covers with own feet” and “placing [his] hand on [the victim’s] outer thigh.”

“All of which was unwelcome and pervasive, and which thereby created an intimidating, uncomfortable and insecure environment,” read the charges.

In his defense, Puertollano said all of the incidents were not malicious. But in the OSG’s internal investigation, Guevarra recommended dismissal from service and referred the case to Malacañang.

“[Victims] were his subordinates or interns whom he exercised control and supervision as supervising ASG. He took advantage of his position and, instead of acting in loco parentis, he was even the one who preyed on them, taking advantage of his superior position,” said Bersamin.

“This Office emphasizes that bare denials of Puertollano cannot withstand the positive declarations and detailed recounts of the harrowing incidents experienced by [the victims] under his hands,” the executive secretary said. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.