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CHR wants NCMH anomalies investigated

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has urged the government to look into the alleged irregularities at the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), a day after its chief and his driver were shot dead by unknown assailants.

“In this time of a global health crisis, unethical and corrupt practices in public health institutions undermine people’s access to health care, especially the most marginalized and disadvantaged,” said Jacqueline Ann de Guia, CHR spokesperson.

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The CHR also vowed to conduct an independent probe of the killing of NCMH chief Roland Cortez and his driver, Ernesto dela Cruz, on Monday, even as the police have yet to establish the motive for the shooting.

But at the same time, the CHR appealed to the national police and local authorities to “carry out a swift and full investigation of the case.”

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The 61-year-old Cortez and Dela Cruz were ambushed inside the NCMH official’s car by two men on a motorcycle around 7 a.m. on Tandang Sora Avenue, hours before the President delivered his State of the Nation Address (Sona) at the House of Representatives.

Police not a deterrent

De Guia was alarmed that the killing was carried out despite the presence of thousands of policemen for the Sona. “In the midst of the preparation for the State of the Nation Address at the Batasang Pambansa, the brazen and vigilante-style killing of a public official in an area where there is heavy police presence is deeply concerning as this signifies how emboldened the perpetrators are in carrying out a crime in broad daylight,” she said.

In April, Cortez drew criticism after a former hospital executive, Clarita Avila, accused him of falsely reporting statistics about new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases at the hospital.

Cortez denied the accusation. Last month, he said all 3,200 patients and 2,435 staffers of the NCMH were free from COVID-19.

In July 2019, he filed a graft and malversation complaint against Avila in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly allowing a company she had incorporated to monopolize projects at the hospital, citing findings from the National Bureau of Investigation.

With a report from Jhesset O. Enano

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TAGS:  Roland Cortez, CHR, NCMH anomalies, slaying of NCMH chief
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