MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) has given a stern warning to doctors at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) following unjustified referrals for medical treatment outside NBP given some high-profile inmates.
Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III has recommended the relief of the head of the NBP Hospital, whom he identified as Dr. Garcia, as well as the physician of convicted drug lord Ricardo Camata, Dr. Villanueva, over their questionable "emergency referrals."
The referrals allowed some VIP inmates, including Camata, to seek treatment in private hospitals outside the prison even without the approval and clearance of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Speaking to ANC's "Top Story" on Friday, Baraan said the relief of the two doctors should serve as a warning to the other doctors at the NBP.
"We're sending a message to them na 'Binabantayan namin kayo. Hindi na pwedeng maulit ito.' So they better behave," he said.
Baraan stressed that Camata, who was admitted to the Metropolitan Hospital last May 28, was given an emergency referral even if he was not in an emergency situation.
He pointed out that Garcia and Villanueva themselves even indicated on their referrals that Camata only needed to consult his physician.
"If you are sending an inmate to the hospital only for consultation, 'di ba hindi 'yun emergency?"
Camata was also even allowed to receive three female guests in his hospital room including starlet Krista Miller.
At least two other high-profile inmates -- alleged bank robbery gang leader Herbert Colangco and another drug lord Armin Buratong -- were also taken to private hospitals last month.
According to Baraan, the DOJ would accept as a valid reason for an outside referral the hospital's statement that it lacks equipment necessary for the inmates' medical needs.
However, if not emergency cases, the referrals would still require the approval of de Lima, he said.
The DOJ undersecretary said they are now studying upgrading the facilities of the NBP hospital to help prevent similar incidents in the future.