De Lima seeks probe into underground COVID-19 clinics for Chinese clients

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 03:40 PM

In this May 19, 2020 photo provided by the Philippine National Police - Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Regional Field Unit 3, police teams wearing protective suits inspect an illegal seven-bed hospital beside a drug store inside a residential villa at the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone in Pampanga province. Central Luzon-CIDG Regional Field Unit 3 via AP

MANILA - Detained Sen. Leila de Lima has urged the Senate to investigate the proliferation of illegal health facilities that cater exclusively to Chinese patients, saying the underground clinics could "jeopardize" the government's effort to curb the spread of the global pandemic.

De Lima's Senate Resolution No. 452 seeks to "determine the accountability" of individuals who were involved in the establishment of the unlicensed clinics.

"These illegal healthcare facilities not only undermine our laws on medical practice, but likewise jeopardize our COVID-19 program by hiding the persons suspected of having COVID-19," the senator said in a statement.

If no one is held accountable, "the government is putting at greater risk the public's health and safety," she said.

Since April, authorities have raided at least 4 Chinese-run underground clinics in Makati, Parañaque, and in Clark, Pampanga, where around 200 COVID-19 rapid test kits, syringes and hospital waste were found.

Two Chinese nationals were arrested in the Pampanga operation after they failed to present business and medical permits, but were released on the same day without charges, De Lima claimed.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) does not issue work permits for foreign doctors in the Philippines, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told senators in a hearing last week.

DOLE does not allow foreigners to work here if we have a lot of Filipinos practicing the same profession, he said.

De Lima said National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration officials should also be investigated for possible malfeasance or nonfeasance.

"Such brazen disregard for our laws and public health and safety deserves no less than full legal response from our law enforcement agencies to show that our country will not tolerate the same and ensure that the same will not be easily repeated," she said.

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros made a similar call in May, saying Chinese nationals involved in the operation of the illegal clinics should be deported.