Lawyer of PhilHealth whistleblowers question their NBI detention
The lawyer of two whistleblowers who revealed the fraudulent claims supposedly made by their employer to Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) on Thursday assailed a plan to transfer them to a detention cell at the National Bureau of Investigation despite their application for witness protection.
“For the record, I think it’s strange that the whistleblowers who alerted the nation on the scope and scale of corruption in the PhilHealth that threatens the implementation of my law on universal health care are in detention,” said their lawyer, Harry Roque.
Roque said he was informed by Edwin Roberto and Liezel Santos de Leon, former employees of WellMed Dialysis Center, about the plan to move them into a cell even if De Leon was still breastfeeding her baby.
“It’s a travesty that the whistleblowers are now being punished,” he said, adding: “I would not have allowed the witnesses to testify in the NBI, had it not been for the request of the NBI director and understanding that they will have immunity.”
Sought for comment, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra gave the assurance that for now, the two would not be moved to a detention cell.
In an interview, Roque said his clients told him that a certain Ferdinand Razon of the NBI’s Anti-Graft Division wanted to move them to a detention cell. The lawyer brought Razon’s intentions to Guevarra’s attention, noting that NBI Director Dante Gierran and Assistant Director Medardo De Lemos were out of the country.
Roque maintained that Roberto and De Leon should have been provisionally admitted immediately to the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP) “and should not have been charged according to the WPP law.”
He said Razon also filed the WPP application on the whistleblowers’ behalf but wondered “what he (Razon) said in the application that’s keeping their application from being approved.”
Guevarra said the whistleblowers’ WPP application would be resolved “very soon.”
“The WPP is evaluating their application for provisional coverage very carefully to ensure compliance with all legal requirements,” he said.
He said he had instructed the NBI to keep the whistleblowers where they were until the Department of Justice has evaluated their application for provisional coverage under the WPP.
“Witness protection is a sensitive matter, so the DOJ evaluates applications with due care. In any event, this evaluation will be completed soon,” Guevarra said.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Thursday warned that more irregularities in PhilHealth’s operations would be unraveled in the coming days.
“In my office, there is new information about how the PhilHealth’s funds are wasted,” Lacson said in a radio interview.
“When we hear of things like that, it is revolting for us because the PhilHealth’s funds are being drained.”
This, however, should not stop the public from being vigilant against any corruption affecting the state health insurer, he said.
“If the public is resigned, then the government people will take advantage. And if the government’s workings will not change, the people will be eventually enlightened. And they will be involved in the change themselves,” Lacson said.
“Either way, the public is observant and taking note of things. And if things reach their limit, it’s still sad because it’s how things have been, it became routine already.”
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