Former Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo R.A. Bengzon and his daughter were charged Wednesday before the Department of Justice-Pasig City Prosecutor’s Office with qualified theft and estafa in connection with the ongoing dispute among officials of the Professional Services Inc. (PSI), the operator of The Medical City (TMC).
The complaint was filed by Joseph Carballo, head of internal audit for PSI.
Carballo claimed that he was authorized by PSI to file the complaint for qualified theft under Article 310 in relation to Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and/or estafa under Article 312 of the RPC against Bengzon and his daughter Margaret Bengzon.
A copy of the PSI’s Board resolution authorizing Carballo to file the complaint was submitted to the prosecutor’s office.
The Bengzons could not be reached for comment at press time.
The complaint stemmed from a discovery of checks issued by The Medical City, and signed and approved only by the complainants, for P2 million personally payable to Dr. Bengzon, and for P1.8 million payable to the law firm of Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles.
“Respondents committed qualified theft when they stole company funds in the forms of unauthorized money transfers via check which they issued to respondent Bengzon himself, as well as to their personal law firm, Romulo Mabanta Buenaventura Sayoc & De Los Angeles,” the complaint read.
The complainant claimed that on October 5, 2003, PSI opened a Bank of Commerce account and subsequently the respondents secured a board resolution authorizing them to be signatories to the said account, replacing the long-time Senior Vice President for finance, Benita Macalagay.
Carballo said this was “highly unusual” as Margaret was not involved in the financial or accounting department of PSI at that time, as she was the Senior Vice President for Strategic Services.
On March 6, 2018, the complainant said the Bengzons signed a check in favor of the law firm for P1,813,700, which was encashed three days after.
Another check was issued in favor of Dr. Bengzon in the amount of P2 million on April 13, 2018, which was encashed on April 13, 2018.
“After due investigation, the team and I discovered that the checks issued by the respondents on March 6, 2018 and April 13, 2018 were unsupported by any documents such as vouchers, engagement agreements invoices or even receipts,” the complaint read.
Carballo claimed that in September 2018, the Bengzons were removed from the Board of Directors and from their positions as corporate officers in PSI.
Earlier, a petition was filed before the Court of Appeals seeking to enjoin the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from implementing its August 13 decision nullifying the majority company shares acquired by a group of shareholders led by the family of Jose Xavier Gonzales due to alleged “fraudulent practices.”
The petition was filed by Fountel Corporation and Felicitas Antoinette Inc. (FAI), both controlled by the Gonzales family.
They argued that the supposed fraudulent practices committed against the board of directors of PSI, as the operator of TMC, is an intra-corporate dispute that falls outside SEC’s jurisdiction. They maintained that the jurisdiction belongs to the Special Commercial Court (SCC).
Aside from Fountel and FAI, the other shareholders sanctioned by the SEC in its August 12 resolution were Viva Holdings (Philippines) Pre. Ltd. and Viva Healthcare Limited.
The SEC held that these groups of shareholders violated the mandatory tender offer rules and committed fraud in taking over PSI.
The Gonzales family and the camp of Bengzon are battling for control over PSI.
The SEC’s decision stemmed from the complaint of several shareholders, including Bengzon, questioning the acquisition of the company’s majority shares by entities related to his nephew, Gonzales.
TMC’s intra-corporate dispute started in 2018, when then-CEO Bengzon refused to hold the legally mandated shareholder elections scheduled in June of that year.
Doctors and shareholders, upset over the violation of their rights to vote, banded together to hold a special shareholder meeting and voted in a new board and a new management team led by Dr. Eugenio Jose F. Ramos as CEO.