Whistleblowers in ‘ghost dialysis’ scam now under WPP – DOJ

Robie de Guzman   •   June 26, 2019   •   1052

MANILA, Philippines – The two whistleblowers in the ‘ghost dialysis’ scam have been admitted into the witness protection program (WPP)of the Department of Justice (DOJ), Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed.

Guevarra said the WPP coverage will only be provisional pending investigation on the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation against seven officials and employees of WellMed Dialysis Center.

This is in relation to the anomalous Philhealth claims allegedly made by the WellMed Dialysis Center for already deceased patients.

“Yes, they were provisionally admitted into the WPP, good for 90 days,” he said in a message sent to reporters.

“That’s pending preliminary investigation by the DOJ of the seven other respondents,” he added.

Those who were provisionally granted WPP coverage were Edwin Roberto and Liezel Santos.

But the two have filed a motion before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 219 requesting that they remain under the custody of the NBI.

Legal Counsel Harry Roque argued that his clients’ custody should not be transferred to the city jail until their formal commitment to the WPP.

“So kahapon nabulabog kami kasi nga gusto nilang ilipat  sa City Jail iyong mga whistleblowers. Sabi namin. Hindi ata makatarungan iyan,” Roque told reporters after filing the motion on Wednesday.

“Kung hindi dahil sa kanilang dalawa, hindi natin malalaman kung gaano katindi ang kurapsyon diyan,” he added. (with details from Mai Bermudez)

Senate asks DOJ for protection of witnesses vs. ‘ninja cops’

Maris Federez   •   October 17, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Wednesday (Oct. 16) requested the Department of Justice (DOJ) to give protection to the witnesses in the Agaw-Bato operations of the so-called “ninja cops”.

In a phone interview, Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said they want to ensure that the testimonies of the witnesses are filed before the Court.

“[It] means that they will go to the court and they will execute an affidavit there. And in which case, if anything happens, hopefully not, that will be admissible in court,” Gordon added.

Among the witnesses that Gordon was referring to were the barangay officials that Johnson Lee sought help from when he was arrested in the police buy-bust operation in November 2010 in the province of Pampanga.

Other witnesses were the police personnel in Mexico, Pampanga, where the alleged cover-up took place when the barangay officials brought Lee to the station.

Lee reportedly paid P50-M to the police for his release.

After releasing Lee, the police arrested another Chinese suspect.

Gordon said they will leave it to the DOJ to determine whether these officers deserve to be under the government’s witness protection program (WPP).

The senator also said they will let Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong, retired police Rudy Lacadin, and the other police officers decide if they want to undergo the said process.

Justice Sec. Guevarra said they shall await the Senate’s formal request before they set into action.

Meanwhile, Gordon said they will try their best to complete the committee report on their investigation on the said illegal operation in the police force.

The Blue Ribbon Committee chairman said that included in the report are the possible recommendations as to who must be held liable on the said illegal activity.

He stressed that resigned-Philippine National Police (PNP) chief PGen. Oscar Albayalde will still be facing charges relative to the said controversy.

“Tanungin ninyo ako kung pwede pa siyang kasuhan (Ask me if he can be charged). The answer is yes. Tanungin ninyo ko kung criminal. (Ask me if it’s a criminal [case]).  The answer could be yes, kung may enough evidence kami (if we have enough evidence). And I think we do,” Gordon said. (from the report of Nel Maribojoc) /mbmf

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.

NBI releases owner of clinic tagged in dialysis scam

Maris Federez   •   June 17, 2019

Dr. Bryan Sy, co-owner of WellMed Dialysis Center

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Sunday (June 16) released the co-owner of a dialysis center in Quezon City after being in detention for 6 days in connection with alleged fraudulent claims, his lawyer, Rowell Ilagan, said.

Dr. Bryan Sy, co-owner of WellMed Dialysis Center, was arrested on Monday (10) for allegedly ordering former employees to make claims for dialysis treatment from state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on behalf of patients who had already died.

A Manila court on Saturday (June 15) ordered Sy’s release after his camp posted a P72,000 bail.

He was not, however, released immediately due to the absence of signatories from the NBI, said his lawyer.

Ilagan said Sy had to wait one more day and walked free from detention around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday.

The Department of Justice indicted Sy on June 14, along with former employees Edwin Roberto and Leizel Aileen de Leon, for estafa through falsification of official documents.

Roberto and De Leon jointly bared the alleged WellMed racket, revealing that it made P800,000 in ghost PhilHealth claims from 2016 to 2018.

WellMed lawyer, however, denied the ‘ghost claims’ with PhilHealth.

They wrote DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra and NBI Director Dante Gierran on Thursday to demand Sy’s release because his detention had exceeded 36 hours.

Under Article 125 of the Revised Penal Code, authorities have a maximum of 36 hours to detain a suspect without filing any charge in court. /mbmf

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