NBI to use 2 ex-employees of Wellmed Dialysis Center as state witnesses

Maris Federez   •   June 13, 2019   •   1314

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is mulling over using two former employees of Wellmed Dialysis Center who turned whistleblowers on the “ghost dialysis” scam as state witnesses.

The two, Edwin Roberto and Liezel de Leon, are currently under the custody of the NBI following their arrest for estafa and falsification of document cases.

NBI deputy director for Forensic Investigation and spokesperson Ferdinand Lavin said, “Two others we are considering them, Aileen and Edwin Roberto, as possible state witnesses so they have to be criminally charged and later on, we will file a motion to exclude them from the criminal charges if they will be admitted into the Witness Protection Program.

Atty. Crispin Francis Jandusay, one of the legal counsels of the two whistleblowers, said they are now preparing the requirements for the two in applying to the Department of Justice Witness Protection Program.

“Up until now, at present, we are complying with the requirements and also of course, we don’t want to preempt because one of the requirements is the certificate of materiality issued by the investigating prosecutor,” Jandusay added.

He also said that the two decided to reveal the anomaly at the dialysis center because of guilt.

Meanwhile, the NBI is also preparing a complaint to be filed against Philhealth officials who were implicated in the controversy.

The agency, however, refused to disclose the identities of the said officials so as not to compromise their investigation.

The NBI also said that they are looking into alleged corruption in other treatment centers, institutions, and personalities involved in the issue.

“In order to not compromise the operations being conducted and investigations being conducted by our agents, we beg not to disclose yet the identities of institutions as well as the personalities involved.” (with reports from April Cenedoza) /mbmf

DOJ: Maguindanao massacre verdict out by November

Marje Pelayo   •   August 9, 2019

FILE PHOTO: Journalism students of Bulacan State University light candles in commemoration of the 4th anniversary of the Maguindanao Massacre in front of Bulacan Capitol, Malolos City, Bulacan. Photo taken November 21, 2013. | PVI/Junnel Aquino

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Justice (DOJ) expects judgement to be rendered on the accused in the killing of 58 individuals in the gruesome massacre that happened in Maguindanao in November 2009.

According to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, the 10-year trial on the case was finally completed on July 17, 2019.

“The parties were given until 15 August 2019 to submit simultaneously their respective memorandum or written summation,” Guevarra said in a statement.

“After which the case shall be considered as submitted for decision, with or without the memoranda of the parties,” he added.

The DOJ then expects that a judgment will be rendered before the massacre’s 10th anniversary November 23, 2019.

“And that justice will finally be served,” the Justice Secretary said.

The judgement in November is expected to end the long wait for justice for the families of the victims of the gruesome crime.

Fifty people were killed in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, including 32 journalists, four of them from UNTV. 

Some brutally shot, others buried alive in pits, while several bodies were left lying nearby in the massacre known as the single deadliest event for journalists in history. – MNP (with details from Mai Bermudez)

DOJ: BI reviews visa-upon-arrival policy

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 2, 2019

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is already reviewing if the visa-upon-arrival (VUA) policy should be abolished or amended, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said it is possible for the system to be abolished since it can be abused.

Guevarra said those who avail the VUA can convert their visa into a special work permit visa.

“Kailangan ng (You need) more adequate monitoring and essentially intelligence work by the BI to prevent those situations [where] the visa upon arrival, which is supposed to be for tourism purposes [is used] for some other purpose,” he said.

However, he added that if the VUA system will be scrapped, there will be an immediate impact especially on the tourism sector.

“There is always that possibility. Ang concern lang naman namin diyan (Our concern here) are two things: one, that scheme was developed to encourage tourists from China so [the] immediate impact, if we abolish it will be on the tourism side,” he said.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said the BI has already begun their review last month.

Perete said the BI has already found loopholes in the said system including the three-month validity of the visa and an extension for another three-months.

The VUA is available to Chinese tourists. Other nationalities may also avail the VUA if:

1) Foreign investors/businessmen endorsed by the BOI, PRA, PCCI and other chambers;

2) Athletes and delegates to sports competitions;

3) Delegates/participants to international conventions;

4) Foreign investors / executives in investments endorsed by the gov’t; and 5) officials of the WB, ADB and other dev’t partners.

The Malacañang as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have previously announced their support to abolish the VUA.—AAC (with reports from Mai Bermudez)

Hontiveros eyes bill protecting Philhealth from false claims

Robie de Guzman   •   August 1, 2019

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday said she is planning to file a bill seeking to protect the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) from fraudulent activities such as overpayments and false claims.

Hontiveros said the bill, which will be called the PhilHealth Insurance False Claims Act, is seen to deter and minimize fraud notwithstanding the penalties provided for under the Universal Health Care (UHC) Act.

The senator said she will file the bill after Senator Panfilo Lacson revealed that the Philhealth incurred billions of losses due to alleged fraudulent benefit claims involving corrupt health officials.

“The seriousness and disturbing nature of these allegations should prompt a review of PhilHealth’s anti-fraud mechanisms,” she said in a statement.

“Every peso lost to corruption in our health programs would mean that a citizen is deprived of potentially life-saving medication or treatment. Corruption makes our people unhealthy and even threatens their lives,” she added.

Under the bill, Hontiveros proposes to improve PhilHealth’s fraud detection mechanisms, including a shift from the current case rate payment to a diagnosis-related grouping provider payment mechanism, and providing support to PhilHealth staff who flag anomalies.

She also wants to revisit the penalty of suspending hospital operations and seriously consider imposing monetary penalties that are at least three times the amount of detected fraud.

Hontiveros said she was particularly alarmed over the report that PhilHealth continues to overpay fraudulent hospitals and clinics via “overstaying” or “ghost” patients.

“Mukhang tuloy-tuloy ang mga anomalya mula sa hakot operation ng mga eye clinics, ghost dialysis patients hanggang sa mga kontrobersyal na repayments. Hindi maaari ito,” she said.

“Defrauding the government and depriving countless Filipinos of access to health services is an unacceptable and criminal misuse of public money. Every single peso under our health programs could potentially spell the difference between life and death for our constituents. Let us make sure that it is well spent and will not end up in the pockets of the corrupt,” she added.

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