Photo shows medical supplies found following a police raid of an underground medical facility .
The STAR/File
De Lima hits lack of charges filed over underground clinics
Bella Perez-Rubio ( - June 30, 2020 - 2:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — A senator on Tuesday expressed alarm over what she said was the authorities' failure to file cases over underground health facilities which cater exclusively to Chinese nationals in the country.

"This is not only an alarming attempt to underreport COVID-19 cases and to further complicate the ongoing government medical response — which at present is already problematic — but also another instance of the government putting at greater risk the public health and safety," Senator Leila de Lima said.

On May 18, police raided a seven-bed hospital exclusively for Chinese patients at Fontana Resort in Clark, Pampanga.

Two Chinese nationals were arrested for operating the clinic but were released shortly after, pending filing of complaints.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said they “should have been brought to the inquest prosecutor instead."

De Lima, a former justice secretary, said "the failure to immediately file the appropriate cases against the Chinese nationals apprehended [needs] to be examined for possible malfeasance or nonfeasance on the part of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI)."

The senator also filed a resolution seeking to "ensure that these illegal operations would not further impair and jeopardize the government's continuing medical response to COVID-19 and determine the accountability for the failure to duly prosecute and/or initiate deportation proceedings against the offenders."

A resolution, even if adopted by the Senate, is only an expression of the chamber's position on an issue and is not binding on the executive branch.

A series of raids on underground clinics

As early as April 27 a police raid on Yumei Liang’s clinic and pharmacy found more than P30 million worth of unregistered medicines purportedly for illnesses ranging from sexually transmitted diseases to coronavirus disease 2019.

Most recently, members of the Southern Police District and the city health department on May 26 raided Goldstar Clinic and Pharmacy Corp. in Makati City allegedly operating without permit.

Guevarra in May said he would "ask the [National Bureau of Investigation] and the BI to help the police in locating other similar underground clinics and the people running them."

He added that appropriate charges may be filed against offenders if warranted.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on May 28 called for the immediate deportation and blacklisting of the Chinese nationals arrested in makeshift medical facilities.

“We should not allow that we are strict with Filipinos but relaxed with Chinese involved in crimes,” she said in Filipino.

"While we are working hard to protect our people from the virus, these criminals freely roam and pose danger to public health. This blatant disregard of our laws should merit immediate deportation and blacklisting," Hontiveros added. — with reports from Kristine Joy Patag

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