Doctors deny involvement in fraud, ethics case filed with PRC
Officers of the Philippine Medical Association say they hired a business registration company to submit to the SEC an endorsement letter, which turns out to be fraudulent

MANILA, Philippines – “We are not the criminals. We are the victims,” officers of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said, after the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) accused them of submitting fradulent registration documents.

Seeking accreditation for the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine Inc (PSSCM) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), PMA officers submitted an endorsement letter from the PRC as required. That letter, which bore the signature of PRC Chairperson Teresita Manzala, was allegedly forged.

Led by PMA president Dr Leo Olarte, the PMA asked the PRC to conduct its own investigation into how the forgery happened. On Monday, March 17, the PMA declared it had nothing to do with the alleged faking of the PRC endorsement letter. If there is anyone to blame, it would be D and A Villaruel Services and Trading Co, a business registration company the PMA hired to handle PSSCM’s registration application.

“We were never involved in the actual processing of the PSSCM SEC registration nor the processing of the PRC endorsement of PSSCM with SEC,” said Olarte in a statement. 

The PMA had “good and honest intentions” when they hired D and A Villaruel Services and Trading Co. The company processes documents for mayor’s permits, BIR registrations and others.  

“We are not the criminals, if there was fraud in the registration of PSSCM, we were the victims here,” Olarte said. 

Aside from Olarte, PSSCM incorporators include former PMA presidents Bu Castro, Rey Melchor Santos, Oscar Tinio and Jose Asa Sabili. 

No endorsement

In a letter to the SEC, Manzala said the PRC never released an endorsement for PSSCM “for failure to comply with the requirements of the agency’s board of medicine.”

In its 5-page order dated Jan 10, 2014, the SEC revoked the March 2013 registration of PSSCM. “Considering the submission of a falsified PRC endorsement, there is fraud in procurement of respondent’s certificate of registration…Had this Commission known about such defect, it would not have accepted and approved the registration application of the respondent,” SEC acting director Ferdinand Sales wrote. 

The SEC ordered the PMA, whose current and former presidents are listed as incorporators of PSSCM, to respond to Manzala’s claim within 15 days. But PMA never did “even after the lapse of a considerable period of time.” This left the SEC little choice but to revoke PSSCM’s corporate registration.

Red tape, politics 

The PMA maintains it has the right to organize themselves into PSSCM, a corporation which aims to “advocate for the development and propagation of stem cell technology.” (READ: Stem cell debate: Innovation or safety?)

Olarte stressed that the group is qualified and “has nothing to hide.” 

He said the “new requirement” of the SEC to secure PRC clearance before registration is “added red tape.”

But there may be another side to the issue. The timing of the release of the SEC order could be a ploy to damage the reputation of the PMA officers involved, said Olarte.

A day after the order was released, the PMA conducted its national elections. 

“The impeccable timing to release these malicious stories a day before PMA national elections to my mind is absolutely suspicious as if timed to embarrass and destroy my and my supporters’ reputation, credibility and integrity in the most crucial moments of our electoral process at the PMA,” said Olarte.

The PRC has, however, directed the Professional Regulatory Board of Medicine (PRBOM) to initiate the filing of an “unprofessional, dishonorable and unethical conduct” case against the 5 incorporators of the stem cell medicine group. The case remains pending with the PRC’s legal division. – Pia Ranada/

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