DOJ widens probe of medical clinics

The Department of Justice has  ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to expand its investigation into bogus claims for dialysis treatments for PhilHealth members who had already died.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said   the NBI will also expand the coverage of its fact-finding investigation on other medical establishments that benefited from such an anomalous scheme.

The move came after the DOJ approved the indictment of executives of WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center led by physician-businessman Bryan Sy.

“My directive to the NBI covers not only WellMed but also other clinics and hospitals. After WellMed, the NBI will investigate other suspicious claims,” he said, in a text message.

Guevarra cited information that there were many other dialysis treatment clinics involved in the scam, which reportedly cost Philhealth P154 billion in bogus claims.

This developed as  Senator Panfilo Lacson on Sunday said Health Secretary Franciso Duque and other Philhealth officials can be charged with plunder or violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act if it can be proved that the state agency’s loss of billions of fund was deliberate.

In an interview over radio dzBB, Lacson said he was not insinuating that Duque was involved in graft and corruption, but said he was “fuming mad” that Philhealth incurred over P150 billion in losses due to “ghost claims” as he accused the Health secretary of a serious neglect of duty.

As PhilHealth chairman, he said there was negligence on his part.

The senator also said he was not asking President Rodrigo Duterte to fire Duque as DOH secretary.

“I have never asked the President to dismiss his appointees because that’s his prerogative,” he said.

“After all, we have this saying that the buck stops at the table of the President. He will be ultimately accountable if his appointees will fail. It’s really his call,” Lacson said.

He added that there seemed to be a double standard at work, since other Philhealth board members were told to resign.

What Duque, as chairman, should have done was to voluntarily submit his courtesy resignation too.

“If you are the head or chairman of the board of an agency or corporation, PhilHealth specifically, you should be the first in [exhibiting] the so-called leadership by example,” Lacson said.

In 2004, when he was Philhealth president, Duque oversaw the illegal use of P500 million from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to buy Philhealth cards bearing the photo of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

But Duque said Friday that this case was already resolved with finality in 2013 by the Supreme Court.

He also said the same issue was brought up during two confirmation hearings in the Senate.

He recalled that at that time, Lacson, a member of the Commission on Appointments, agreed that the issue was immaterial to his appointment.

“The Commission of Appointments, which Senator Lacson was a part of, agreed that these claims are baseless and consequently approved my appointment as Health Secretary,” said Duque.

“It is my sincere hope that information like this that may damage one’s reputation is verified first before being narrated to the public to avoid confusion. It is also my sincere hope that this puts the issue to rest,” he said.

“I have been in public service for more than two decades and I have never been convicted of any wrongdoing, simply because I hold integrity as my core principle,” he said.

Lacson a;sp threatened a “showdown” with all officials the state agency during deliberations of the 2020 budget in the coming 18th Congress.

“We will have a showdown when the budget deliberation arrives,” Lacson said.

During the last budget deliberations, Lacson said he concentrated on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways, but now, he will focus on the budget of the Department ofHealth in the coming budget hearings.

Topics: Department of Justice , DOJ , National Bureau of Investigation , PhilHealth , WellMed Dialysis and Laboratory Center
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