Manila court says writ of habeas corpus could not be issued on basis of illegal warrantless arrest
MANILA (UPDATE) —The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Tuesday declared valid the arrest of the co-owner of the kidney dialysis center implicated in the alleged “ghost PhilHealth claims” scandal.
DOJ Senior Assistant State Prosecutor Anna Noreen Devanadera said businessman Bryan Sy was validly arrested during the National Bureau of Investigation’s probe Monday into alleged irregular payments PhilHealth made to WellMed Dialysis Center.
Sy was arrested without a warrant along with whistleblowers Edwin Roberto and Liezel Aileen De Leon, who exposed the clinic’s alleged “ghost dialysis scandal.”
Under the scheme, the clinic supposedly received payments from PhilHealth for dialysis treatments even though some of the patients have long been dead.
“Resolving the motion of respondent Bryan Sy insofar as the validity of the warrantless arrest, we find that the court has already ruled upon its validity in its order dated June 11, 2019 in the Petition for Habeas Corpus. Hence, this case is subject for inquest proceedings,” Devanadera’s handwritten minutes read.
Devanadera referred to the court ruling of Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 20 Tuesday afternoon denying the petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed by Sy’s wife, Therese Francesca Tan-Sy.
Tan-Sy, who is also one of 10 named as respondents in the estafa and falsification of public documents complaint filed by PhilHealth and NBI with the DOJ, questioned the validity of Sy’s arrest and asked for his immediate release.
But the Manila court denied her petition, saying a petition for a writ of habeas corpus is not the proper remedy for questioning the validity of a warrantless arrest.
“The singular function of a petition for habeas corpus is to inquire into the cause of the detention of a person. The facts presented before the Court show that Dr. Bryan Sy was restrained of his liberty by virtue of a juridical process defined as a writ, warrant, subpoena and other formal writing issued by authority of law,” Judge Marivic Balisi-Umali said.
“That there is no probable cause for the warrantless arrest of the subject has been held not a valid ground for the issue of a Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it added.
Harry Roque, lawyer for the whistleblowers, agreed with the court’s ruling.
“Of course it is the wrong remedy. Any lawyer knows that. He [Sy] was dreaming when he filed the petition for habeas corpus,” he told reporters after Tuesday’s inquest.
The NBI had justified the arrest as a case of hot pursuit but this was not discussed in either the DOJ’s minutes nor the Manila court’s ruling.
As a consequence, Sy, Roberto and De Leon will remain under NBI custody pending determination by Devanadera if there is probable cause to charge them and 7 others in court with estafa and falsification of public documents.
Roque revealed the two whistleblowers are applying for inclusion in the DOJ’s witness protection program.
WHY NO PHILHEALTH OFFICERS CHARGED
Roque, however, expressed concern why no PhilHealth officers were named in the complaint with the 10 respondents.
He said he has documents which shows WellMed regularly received payments from PhilHealth every 2 weeks and it should be easy to trace who processed these payments.
“Lumalabas kasing complainant PhilHealth so nakapagtataka. Ibig ba sabihin niyan, napakalinis ng PhilHealth? Naku, hindi po kami naniniwala. Dahil siguradong-sigurado ako, may kakuntsaba sa loob ng PhilHealth,” he said.
“So PhilHealth, kung gusto niyong paniwalaan kayo ng taong bayan na seryoso kayo na habulin itong mga nangingikil, natotongpats sa taong bayan, kasuhan niyo yung mga sariling kasama sa loob ng PhilHealth. Hindi kami naniniwala na santo kayo diyan,” he added.