MANILA - Malacañang on Friday defended Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial from allegations that the government official was linked to the Islamic State.
“Based on the list of names submitted of those who are in one way or another linked to the rebellion in Marawi in Mindanao, Secretary Paulyn Ubial is not in that list,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing in Malacañang.
“Whatever accusations regarding her being linked to Maute or ISIS is baseless,” he added.
The House of Representatives’ minority bloc earlier raised concerns over the operation of Winston Q8, a company involved in the processing of health certifications of Kuwait-bound overseas Filipino workers, saying it may be funding the Maute terrorist group and other militants.
Winston Q8’s alleged links to ISIS was established after its owner, suspected Islamic State member Hussein Al-Dhafiri, was arrested in Taguig in March and deported to Kuwait in April.
Kabayan Party-list Rep. Harry Roque said Ubial should also be probed as she allegedly "facilitated the return of Winston Q8" after former Health Secretary Janet Garin banned them from operating in the Philippines.
Ubial has denied Roque’s allegation, saying it was during her term as health secretary when Winston Q8 and the clinics where it referred its clients were closed down.
"I was the only health secretary that closed down the clinics where Winston Q8 referred their patients," she said, adding that the closure order from Garin was never implemented.
Garin, for her part, said she did not stop the clinic's operations.
She clarified that she did not order a halt on the operations of Winston Q8 and instead ordered to stop the operations of the Gulf Cooperation Council-Accredited Medical Clinics Association (Gamca).
“I did not order any stoppage for the operations of Winston Q8 because the Department of Health cannot do it,” she said.
Garin explained that Ubial may have mixed up Gamca with Winston Q8 since both entities processed health certification.
She added that she ordered the stoppage of Gamca’s operations because they were creating a “monopoly” on the clinics for overseas Filipino workers.
Gamca covered 21 different clinics before its operations were halted, while Winston Q8 tried to operate and credit 8 clinics which were not part of Gamca before, Garin said.
She added that Winston Q8 may have been able to operate again because it took advantage of the transition period after Gamca’s operations were halted.
“I was not at the Department of Health during that time but my guess is that they took advantage of the transition,” Garin said.