WHAT WENT BEFORE: ‘Ghost dialysis’ complainants were assured of protection
The alleged “ghost dialysis” scheme of WellMed Dialysis Center in Novaliches, Quezon City, was exposed in a three-part Inquirer investigative report that began on June 6.
Edwin Roberto and Liezel Santos de Leon, former WellMed employees, revealed that their employer had defrauded Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) by allegedly using dead patients to file kidney treatment claims.
The revelation unraveled irregularities in the state health insurance firm and led to the forced resignation of its top officials. In his third State of the Nation Address on July 22, President Duterte mentioned the PhilHealth issue, saying the “massive fraud perpetrated against the public health insurance system” left him “grossly disappointed.”
Roberto and De Leon first reported the scheme to the PhilHealth action center in July 2018 and were referred to board member Roberto Salvador who, they said, assured them that they would be given protection and that won’t be included in any case that could be filed.
In January, the two followed up their complaint against the dialysis center with PhilHealth and were told that it remained pending. WellMed’s accreditation, however, had been renewed, Roberto noted.
On June 10, WellMed owner Bryan Sy and the two whistleblowers were arrested without a warrant. According to Nathaniel Ramos, head of the National Bureau of Investigation’s antigraft division, they were arrested based on the doctrine of continuing crime.
A week later, all three were charged with 17 counts of estafa through falsification of public documents in the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC). An NBI agent then explained that whistleblowers had to be charged in court first so they could be tapped as state witnesses.
On June 20, former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, now counsel for the two whistleblowers, assailed a plan to transfer Roberto and De Leon to an NBI detention cell despite their application for witness protection.
On June 26, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Roberto and De Leon have been provisionally admitted into the government’s Witness Protection Program and would be under state protection for 90 days while Department of Justice prosecutors continued to investigate other WellMed officers.
On Aug. 5, the Quezon City RTC dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the estafa charges filed against Sy and the two whistleblowers, but “without prejudice to refiling [the case] before a Metropolitan Trial Court.” —INQUIRER RESEARCH
SOURCE: INQUIRER ARCHIVES
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.