Mrs. Ligot, 3 others tell Senate they're sick

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 24 2011 09:48 AM | Updated as of Feb 24 2011 10:11 PM

Doctors warned vs issuing medical certificates to avoid probes

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Four individuals linked to military corruption reported to the Senate they were sick and asked that they be excused from the upper chamber's Thursday inquiry.

In a letter sent to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Mrs. Erlinda Ligot, wife of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, said she is confined at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) due to palpitations, headache, and gastric pain.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona, chairman of Blue Ribbon committee, said former Armed Forces chief Roy Cimatu also sent a letter with a medical certificate, informing the committee that he could not attend the hearing because he is suffering from severe osteoarthritis.

Mrs. Ligot and Cimatu have been accused of pocketing military funds, based on the testimony of former military budget officer George Rabusa.

Rabusa has also accused state auditor Divina Cabrera and former commissioner Raul Flores of being involved in the military fund scam.

Both auditors also sent letters with accompanying medical certificates.

Former military chief Diomedio Villanueva, meanwhile, asked to be excused "so he could continue the period of mourning" for his wife's death.

'Ribbonitis'

Guingona, who expressed dismay over the absences of the main respondents, ordered the Senate's doctors to verify the veracity of claims of the absent respondents.

The senator said he wants to know if the respondents were really suffering from ailments or they are just trying to avoid the hearings.

He said, in jest, that they could be suffering from "ribbonitis," feigning sickness to avoid testifying before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

"All those who have said they have ailments, they are in the hospital. We would like to ascertain the veracity of [their claims]. Kung totoo man, we'd like to assure you walang problema, igagalang natin, except kung ribbonitis ang sakit," Guingona said.

He also warned doctors who have issued the medical certificates that their licenses to practice may be suspended if they are found to be conniving with their patients to avoid the congressional inquiries.

"They should be held accountable for that. If they have been found to have violated [their code of ethics] and acted irresponsibly, then maybe their license to practice should be suspended. We cannot have doctors issuing medical certificates just so that the ends of justice cannot be met," the senator said.

Hearing at VMMC?

During the hearing, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada asked the committee if it's possible to hold hearings at the VMMC, where Mrs. Ligot is confined.

Guingona said that the proposal would be discussed after the hearings.

Estrada said that based on a report by Senate physician Dr. Mariano Blanche, Mrs. Ligot was reported to be suffering from high blood pressure when she was admitted to the VMMC.

The senator quoted the report as saying Mrs. Ligot "was observed to be emotional and was crying all the time."

The report was based on an interview with Mrs. Ligot by the Senate doctors.

The Senate doctors also reported that Mrs. Ligot can attend the hearing "in the company of physicians."

Mrs. Ligot was scheduled to undergo tests until Friday, the Senate physician's report added.

Estrada proposed to the committee that it hold Monday's hearing at the VMMC.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said during the hearing that Mrs. Ligot's appearance is very valuable to the committee.

"We need Mrs. Ligot to answer very serious questions that this committee has," Drilon said.

Ligot and his wife have been accused of illegally amassing at least P740 million and properties, including mansions in the United States.