QC court junks estafa raps vs. Wellmed owner, employees

MANILA The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Monday dismissed the 17 complaints filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against physician Bryan Sy, and others implicated in the scam involving bogus claims filed by the Wellmed Dialysis and Laboratory Center Corp. with the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PhilHealth).

In a 14-page resolution, RTC Branch 219 Judge Janet Abergos-Samar said "these cases are dismissed for lack of jurisdiction over the offenses charged without prejudice to refiling before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Quezon City".

The ruling, which also cancelled the arraignment and pre-trial conference tentatively scheduled this week, granted a motion to quash filed by Sy's counsels - which said that the court has no jurisdiction over the offense of estafa through falsification of public documents, since the crime is punishable with a maximum penalty of six years imprisonment, which is cognizable by the first-level courts.

"The court emphasizes that the dismissal of these cases has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of the accused. The cases are dismissed because based on the crime charged in the information, and the applicable penalty, it is not the Regional Trial Court, which has jurisdiction to hear and decide the cases, but the first level courts or the Metropolitan Trial Courts.

"The accused may still be prosecuted and the cases may still be filed before the said courts notwithstanding the dismissal decreed herein," the magistrate said.

In a statement, however, the defense counsel for Bryan Sy claimed that the ruling by the magistrate prevents the government from admitting state witnesses.

Lawyer Rowell Ilagan said the lower court ruling "bolsters (their) position that the crime charged is not a grave felony".

"As such, the admission of the alleged whistleblowers to the Witness Protection Program is highly irregular as the admission to WPP is only limited to a grave felony," he said.

Former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, counsel of the whistleblowers Edwin Roberto and Liezel de Leon, however, disputed the defense's theory.

"That is wishful thinking (dropping of the state witnesses). If it were not for the incompetence of the Philhealth the proper charge would have been filed," Roque told the Philippine News Agency.

Roque also said "Senior Vice President of PhilHealth, Atty. Jojo Del Rosario (should) be fired ASAP for filing the defective complaint" that was dismissed by the court.

"The proper charge should have been graft and corruption or plunder against the owners of Wellmed who are obviously in collusion with people within PhilHealth. We assure the public that the case can be filed against because it was dismissed only on a technicality and there will be no double jeopardy. We call on the new management of the PhilHealth to appoint a more competent senior VP for legal, he said.

Roque asserted that Philhealth should not have impleaded whistleblowers Roberto and de Leon with the owners of WellMed because there is nothing in the witness protection program law that required that they should be charged.

Roque added that there should have been charges filed against PhilHealth officials in obvious collusion with the owners of WellMed.

"The latter was able to collect on their billing within 48 hours," Roque pointed out.

On June 13, prosecutors recommended the filing of separate information against Sy, de Leon and Roberto for estafa through falsification of public and or official documents, for the alleged irregular or fraudulent claims for payment of dialysis and other medical treatments by Wellmed from the state health insurance firm. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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