Stem cell docs accused of fraud
MANILA (UPDATED) - The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has revoked the corporate registration of a group promoting stem cell therapy allegedly due to a falsified document endorsing their group.
The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) is already checking into the alleged falsification of the papers of the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine (PSSCM). A lawmaker, on the other hand, has filed a resolution urging the House of Representative to probe the matter.
In a five-page order, the SEC revoked the corporate registration of the group for allegedly submitting a fraudulent endorsement from the professional regulator.
“Considering the submission of a falsified PRC endorsement, there is fraud in procurement of respondent’s certificate of registration. The falsified document was relied upon by this Commission in approving the registration application of the respondent,” SEC Acting Director Ferdinand Sales said.
In a separate statement, PRC chairperson Teresita Manzala said: “The Commission directed the PRBOM [Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine] to initiate the filing of a case of unprofessional, dishonorable and unethical conduct against the five incorporators motu proprio. The case is pending before the PRC Legal Division.”
The incorporators are: Leo Olarte, Bu Castro, Rey Melchor Santos, Oscar Tinio and Jose Asa Sabili.
As of posting, Olarte has not issued a comment despite repeated calls.
Under a memorandum of agreement (MOA), the PRC will evaluate the capacity of a group and later submit an endorsement to the SEC.
Upon SEC’s request, the PRBOM directed the PSSCM incorporators to submit proof of their education, training, certification, and actual practice in the field of stem cell medicine.
Manzala said the PRBOM did not receive any response, thus it placed the group’s application papers on hold.
“After a lapse of several months, the PRBOM received information that the PSSCM was able to obtain a SEC registration, with the PRC endorsement signed by the PRC chairperson. The PRBOM eventually got hold of a copy of the SEC registration,” Manzala said.
She noted that the supposed endorsement used the Philippine Veterinary Law of 2004 instead of Medical Act of 1959 as a reference regulatory law. She also noted her supposed signature even if she had not signed one.
“The PRC chairperson requested the SEC to conduct an investigation mainly on the basis of the forged signature. The SEC served summons on the incorporators, directing them to file their answer to the complaint filed by PRC chairperson Manzala. A reply was never submitted to the SEC. After the lapse of the 15-day period within which respondents should have submitted their reply, the SEC proceeded to promulgate its decision, effectively revoking the registration of the PSSCM,” Manzala said.
Meanwhile, Batangas 2nd District Rep. Raneo Abu filed last March 12 a resolution urging the lower House to look into the forgery case.
“[The] foresaid incorporators, who are all professionals, committed a crime and fell short of the ethical standards demanded of them when they forged, or caused to be forged, the signature of PRC chairperson Manzala and thereafter submitted the forged document with the SEC,” Abu said.
The Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) said it has no official statement at this time.
PCP incoming president Anthony Leachon told ABS-CBNnews.com, however, that: “It saddens me really that the medical profession is again disgraced and put in a very bad light. In playful jest but offending and embarrassing, I was asked: Tax cheats! Forgers! What’s next, Doc?”
He clarified that this is only his personal opinion.
While he empathizes with the group of doctors involved, he said: “The accusation is very serious, and the stature of the ‘doctors charged with fraud,’ as the column of Ramon Tulfo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer is entitled, all the more aggravated the problem.”
He noted the incorporators are leaders of the medical profession. “Had they not been the incumbent president and past presidents of the PMA, this issue would not have been as contentious, damaging and notorious. The controversy would have been limited in their personal capacities, and the medical profession would not have been unnecessarily dragged down,” Leachon said.
Weeks ago, the medical profession had questioned the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for putting out advertisements that portrayed doctors as tax cheats. The issue may also merit another probe by lawmakers.
Leachon encouraged the stakeholders to face the issue about the forgery head on, saying it’s time to restore the pride and honor of the medical profession.
“They should meet and confront the issue head-on; don’t take cover behind allegations of ill will on the part of PRC in filing the case. A lawyer himself, Dr. Olarte knows that there is always bias and partiality in every case filed, and a relief against the person/s charged is always sought. The merit of a case is not defined by the motivation, whether fair or foul, in its filing. Truth does,” Leachon said.