Arroyo's stem cell doctor pleads not guilty to estafa case

MANILA, Philippines – Antonia Park, the stem cell doctor of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, pleaded not guilty Wednesday, May 6, before a court trying her for one count of estafa.

The arraignment happened past 8:30 am Wednesday at the Tagaytay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 18 and lasted for less than an hour. Bernard Tan, who filed the estafa case against Park, was in attendance.

Prosecution lawyer Monica Liwag earlier recommended that Park be indicted for one count of illegal practice of medicine and 8 counts of estafa. (READ: Prosecutor wants Arroyo’s stem cell doctor on watch list)

But on Tuesday, May 5, Tan received a letter from Liwag stating that the earlier resolution is a draft that was "inadvertently transmitted to the parties."

Liwag said in the letter dated April 22 that the "official resolution" found probable cause for only one count of estafa (instead of 8 counts) and one count of illegal practice of medicine. 

On Park’s "not guilty" plea, Tan said: "That is her right, but she should prove her innocence in court."

Tan is the father of one of Park’s patients, Kate, who died on July 4, 2013, due to a tumor that blocked the entry of blood to her heart, secondary to Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

According to the father, Kate started undergoing stem cell treatment in August 2012, and Park allegedly promised to cure the patient in 3 months' time.

The Tans went to Park's clinic after they saw news of Arroyo seeking alternative treatment there. In July 2012, Park took in Arroyo "for possible stem cell therapy." Park used the title "MD" in her statement released to the press.

Republic Act 2382 or The Medical Act of 1959 considers a person engaged in the practice of medicine when he uses MD after his name.

A Rappler investigative report revealed Park is not licensed to practice in the Philippines – a fact she admitted. (READ: Arroyo's alternative medicine doctor unlicensed)

According to the law, a person found guilty of illegal practice of medicine will be punished with a fine of not more than P10,000 ($224.58)*, or imprisonment of not more than 5 years, or both fine and imprisonment.

The court has set the next hearing on the estafa case for June 24. – Rappler.com

*US$1 = P44.53

Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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