Supreme Court to revisit case of doctor who died in jail – Gesmundo | Inquirer News
There may be ‘some lapses’

Supreme Court to revisit case of doctor who died in jail – Gesmundo

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:34 AM December 14, 2023

Jailed doc firm on his innocence in negligence case till the very end

‘FATHER, FRIEND, ADVISER’ | Dr. Iggy Agbayani Jr. stayed at Manila City Jail’s Dorm 4, sharing it with about 255 others. (File photo by TINA ROBLES / Contributor)

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court will review the case of Dr. Benigno “Iggy” Agbayani Jr., a highly regarded orthopedic surgeon whose death at the Manila City Jail in October while serving a sentence for patient “negligence” sparked an uproar in the medical community.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo said the high court would “check what really happened” in the case of Agbayani, 58, who died of a heart attack on Oct. 5, months after he went to jail as his 2013 conviction became final.


Agbayani, a former chair of the orthopedics department at Manila Doctors Hospital, was earlier found guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries.


Convicted by a Manila court, he lost the appeals he filed at the Court of Appeals (CA) and the Supreme Court.

“We will check what really happened … we will review it and based on the results, we may establish new instructions or new rules so that we can avoid a repeat of the same situation,” Gesmundo said.

‘Root cause of issue’

“We have to address it because apparently … there were some lapses committed by the lawyer. I think that’s the main or the root cause of the issues that came out,” he added, without naming the lawyer.

Citing the judiciary’s Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability, Gesmundo said the justices would check if the revised policy governing the conduct of Filipino lawyers was not enough to address such incidents.

“If lawyers apparently are not doing their tasks effectively and efficiently to protect the interests of their clients, we’ll look into that,” he said.

“That’s the reason why we want to examine the case from its beginning, to find out what is the root cause,” he added.


Gesmundo made the remarks in response to a mounting clamor from medical organizations seeking justice for Agbayani, including an online petition for judicial review.

The Philippine Medical Association said it would support “another chance for judicial review,” while the Philippine Orthopedic Association said it was “united in the pursuit of truth and justice, not only for the sake of [Agbayani] but also for the welfare and protection of medical professionals in the country.”

Asked if the review could result in a posthumous acquittal, Gesmundo said: “No, we cannot do that anymore. Once an accused died, the commanding rule is to dismiss the case, that is terminated.”

Not sterile

“We’ll take it from there so that we can adopt remedial measures,” the chief justice added.

Agbayani was charged in 2006 by one of his patients, lawyer and newspaper columnist Saul Hofileña Jr. at the Manila Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 26.

Based on court records, Hofileña was referred to Agbayani at MDH to get an arthroscopy, a surgical procedure to diagnose and treat joint issues, in January 2006.

When treatment led to an infection of his left knee, the patient blamed Agbayani and alleged that the arthroscope the doctor used for the operation was not sterile.

Hofileña said he “suffered serious physical injuries, on his left knee, rendering him incapacitated” for more than 30 days.

He had the infection treated at another hospital, but he claimed that Agbayani’s “reckless” procedure forced him to “walk with a cane for a prolonged period.”

In July 2013, then Presiding Judge Manuel Recto of MeTC Branch 26 found Agbayani guilty of reckless imprudence resulting in serious physical injuries. The decision said the doctor “should answer for such negligence.”

Agbayani went to the CA but his appeal was denied in 2014 for “lack of merit,” partly because he had failed to attach portions of the records of the case in his pleadings.

The orthopedist then turned to the Supreme Court, but its Third Division ruled that the CA “committed no reversible error,” noting there was no satisfactory explanation for the omission of some case documents.

‘Grave injustice’

On June 23, 2021, the high court denied Agbayani’s petition for review but reduced his prison sentence from two years to a maximum of one year.

While serving time at the city jail, Agbayani organized medical missions for fellow inmates with the help of his classmates at the University of the Philippines in Manila.

Up to the day he died, he maintained his innocence.

While in jail, Agbayani wrote an open letter to fellow physicians that was posted by his friends and colleagues on Facebook after he died.

In the message shared by Phi Kappa Mu Fraternity on Nov. 6, Agbayani vowed to fight the “grave injustice foisted upon me because I am not guilty of any crime.”

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According to a statement the Manila City jail sent to the Inquirer, Agbayani was due for early release on Nov. 26 based on his good conduct time allowance credits “reflecting his adherence to rules and regulations during his incarceration.”

TAGS: Alexander Gesmundo, Benigno Agbayani Jr., Supreme Court

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