Lauro Vizconde faces rapsBy Cathy Yamsuan and Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The man whose life story has symbolized the arduous quest for justice in the country now finds himself being haled to court.
The Quezon City prosecutor’s office has recommended the filing of charges against the directors of the International Broadcasting Co. (IBC) who served under the Arroyo administration for allegedly failing to remit their employees’ monthly contributions to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PHIC or PhilHealth)
Among the accused is Lauro Vizconde, who lost his wife and two daughters in a massacre at their Parañaque City home in 1991 and again took a painful blow in 2010 when the Supreme Court acquitted the seven men earlier convicted of the murders, including a former senator’s son, Hubert Webb.
Vizconde was appointed to the IBC board by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2001. When a new administration took over, the 77-year-old widower was the only one retained in the board by President Aquino.
In an interview Wednesday, Vizconde, who was working in the US as a cook when the massacre took place, said he was given a board seat by Arroyo because “they just wanted to help me. It was only for survival since I don’t have a regular source of income.”
On Tuesday, Quezon City chief prosecutor Donald Lee approved the filing of charges against Vizconde and former IBC board members, namely Mark Allan, Jay Yambao, Joselito Yabut, Victor Felipe, Juanito de Asis and Ricardo Abcede.
The late Press Secretary Cerge Remonde was included among the respondents when the complaint was filed in 2009. Remonde died of a heart attack on Jan. 19, 2010.
Lee granted the motion for reconsideration filed by PhilHealth counsel Florecita Torreliza, who sought a reversal of the Feb. 13 resolution of Assistant City Prosecutor Alessandro Jurado who dismissed the case for lack of probable cause.
Torreliza filed the complaint in 2009, claiming that the respondents violated the 1995 National Health Insurance Act when they incurred an outstanding obligation to PHIC amounting to P6,153,825.
The amount represented the IBC employees’ PhilHealth contributions covering different periods: March to December 2004, January 2005 to December 2007, January to December 2008, and January to April 2009.
Records showed that PhilHealth sent a demand letter dated May 28, 2009, to the IBC manager but it apparently went unheeded. During the preliminary investigation, the respondents failed to submit evidence in their defense despite notices.
In a three-page resolution, Lee found merit in Torreliza’s appeal. “As correctly argued by the complainant, enrollment of all employers and employees in PhilHealth is mandatory … hence proof of coverage is not necessary. Probable cause exists against the respondents for failure and refusal to deduct contributions from IBC employees’ compensation and to remit it to the PHIC.”
A bail of P6,000 each was recommended for the provisional liberty of the respondents.
Reached by the Inquirer on the phone Wednesday, Vizconde insisted that the health premiums of IBC 13 employees were “paid regularly” and all their disputes with management had already been settled.
“The issue of PhilHealth premiums with the union has already been settled. So there is no problem as far as I know,” Vizconde said. “They no longer have any complaints even on the privatization (of IBC 13).
“The problems have already been settled during the past administration. When the new board came in, ayos na (everything has been settled),” he added.
If there was any concern yet to be addressed, it would be on the retirement benefits of former IBC employees, Vizconde said. “I know they have only been receiving partial payments every month.”