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No guards for Wagas?

Ombud to look into hospital stay of jailed ex-mayor
By: - Senior Reporter / @inquirervisayas
/ 11:50 AM July 27, 2011

Where are the guards?

Four uniformed guards are supposed to be escorting Muntinlupa convict and former Compostela mayor Gilbert Wagas, whom Cebu Daily News surprised in a private hospital room in Cebu City the other day.

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However, no guards were seen outside Room 256 of the Visayas Community Medical Center (VCMC) during the spot visit.

Wagas quickly closed the door shut after recognizing the CDN reporter. The hospital administrator denied knowing Wagas was a patient there.

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The Office of the Ombudsman in the Visayas is looking into the circumstances of  the hospital stay of Wagas, who was convicted of malversation of public funds  and sent to the National State Penitentiary in Muntinlupa in 2009 to serve a 13-year sentence.

“Titingnan natin kung merong kasabwat. Kung kulong, dapat kulong talaga, hindi sa hospital. Bakit siya nandito? Yan ang malaking tanong. Mayroon namang madaming magagaling na ospital sa Manila. (We will see if there are accomplices involved. If he was sent to prison, he should be in prison, not in the hospital. Why is he here? That’s the big question. There are several competent hospitals in Manila),” Apostol said in an interview.

The anti-graft office docketed a fact-finding complaint based on Cebu Daily News’ July 26 story confirming Wagas’ presence in the VCMC.

Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale said she heard reports that Wagas attended the town’s celebration of the feast of St. James the Apostle, the patron saint of Compostela, north Cebu, last Monday.

“We are questioning why he (Wagas) is here. I thought the problem of ’privileged prisoners’ was already  controlled in Manila,” Magpale told reporters.

“He was also admitted here last year,” said Pastor Iris Tibus of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), which operates the private hospital on Osmeña Boulevard, Cebu City.

“As long as there is an order from the government or police authorities, we will continue to admit him,” she said.But Tibus said she wasn’t privy to details of his current admission. She said Wagas was an “active” UCCP member in Compostela.

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SIX TIMES

It’s not the first time Wagas has been back in Cebu.

He’s previously secured at least six court orders from three different Cebu judges granting his request for hospital confinement in Cebu on account of his diabetes.

A staff member in the superintendent’s office of the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa told CDN yesterday that Wagas was sent to Cebu to attend court hearings.

Sergeant Mauricio Gratis, in a long-distance phone interview, said Wagas was supposed to attend a court hearing last July 22 and another on Friday.

Gratis said four uniformed jail guards are supposed to be securing  Wagas.

He said the superintendent’s office received a letter from a court that granted Wagas request for hospital confinement but he couldn’t give details.

He said Wagas should have been committed to the Cebu City Jail while waiting for his hearing on Friday but was brought to a hospital since there was a court order.

In a phone interview, Wagas’ youngest sister Rachelle said she already admonished her brother about his stay at the VCMC.

“I told my brother this would cause a controversy but he told me it was legal,” Rachelle said.

She said Wagas was diabetic and needs medical attention. His doctor was connected with the hospital.

When CDN visited Wagas unannounced past 5 p.m. Monday, there was no patient’s name on the door of Room 256.

Voices of several persons conversing could be heard inside. Wagas, wearing an orange T-shirt, answered the door after hearing knocking.

After staring at the visitor, whom he recognized as a CDN reporter, he slowly closed the door without a word.

The hospital administrator, Pastor Mequias Camba, said he had no idea Wagas was a patient there when CDN interviewed him right after the encounter.   He declined to elaborate, citing “confidentiality rights.”

Two teenagers were later seen leaving Room 256.

Wagas’ lawyer George Bragat also expressed surprise when reached for comment. He said he didn’t know his client was in the hospital.

He said Wagas was supposed to attend a hearing in Mandaue City last July 18 but this was reset by the court.

Wagas has a libel case pending before Judge Teresita Galanida of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 56 in Mandaue City.

At least two motions for hospital confinement were filed by Wagas with  Judge Gil Acosta of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) Branch 3, where he is facing cases for violation of the Anti-Bouncing Check Law.

The court clerk said one was granted last March 2011. Another was approved early this month but gave no specific time frame. It said Wagas intends to stay at the hospital “while waiting for the hearing in Cebu.”

Wagas is also facing libel charges filed by Daanbantayan Mayor Maria Luisa Loot  pending before Judge  Galanidain Mandaue City.

Court records showed that Wagas was granted hospital confinement in at least three instances by RTC Branch 56.

The first was in Dec. 15, 2010. Wagas was allowed to stay in the hospital due to “serious complications resulting from his diabetes” last Feb. 23, 2011, and June 9, 2011.

In October 2010, Wagas sought a similar arrangement for his diabetes medication.

RTC Judge Douglas Marigomen, who handled another  libel case filed by former Cebu Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez against Wagas granted Wagas’ request for “humanitarian reasons” in October 2010.Reporters, Candeze R. Mongaya and Jucell Marie P. Cuyos

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TAGS: Graft and Corruption, hospitals, malversation of public funds
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