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

Robie de Guzman   •   June 26, 2019   •   914

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)

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

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

Maris Federez   •   June 13, 2019

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

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