Lung Center of the Philippines and Dr. Fernando Melendres

PrintPrintEmailEmailPDFPDF

If there is another health worker who competed with the health secretary in terms of media exposure this year, it must be the erstwhile Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP) chief, Dr. Fernando Melendres. The coverage media accorded on all the issues and scandals that hounded him easily made Melendres the 2nd most popular DOH figure for 2002.

Early this year, Melendres filed a multi-million libel suit against 16 LPC executives before the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office for maligning his reputation when they submitted a manifesto to the House of Representatives that asked for his expulsion in December 2001. Melendres said that they want him out so they could work on the appointment of one of them as LCP head. The doctors, on the other hand, claimed that Melendres should resign because his appointment was co-terminus with deposed President Joseph Ejercito-Estrada and alleged that he had committed various criminal acts such as illegal transfer of LCP employees, among other. (People’s Journal, February 27)

In April, the LCP Employees Association filed graft charges against Melendres in the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly authorizing the construction of a parking area inside LCP that was allegedly worth P3million. One employee, on the other hand, filed an administrative complaint against Melendres with the Civil Service Commission for entering into an alleged illegal contract with a drug supply firm for the purchase of pharmaceutical products for the hospital. (Philippine Star, April 11)

By the middle of the year LCP deputy director Dr. Jose Amores filed three criminal cases against Melendres, two LCP executives and two Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) officials before the Office of the Ombudsman. The five were charged with four counts of malversation, one count of falsification of public documents, and plunder. Amores claimed that they conspired in misappropriating some P150 million LCP funds by transferring the amount from Land Bank of the Philippines to PVB without an authority from the LCP Board of Trustees. (Manila Bulletin, July 6)

As the charges against Melendres continued to pile-up, Dayrit organized an fact-finding team to investigate the LCP chief. The team started its investigation early May.

In a twist of fate, the conflict between LCP executives backfired with the investigating team recommending the filing of administrative case against both parties. In a resolution issued by the Board of Trustees, Melendres was held administratively liable for four alleged acts. The Board for the alleged procurement of banners without public bidding, falsification of public documents, falsification of documents in the hiring of an architectural consultant, violation of auditing rules on the drawing of petty cash advances, and unauthorized implementation of a reorganization plan. Meanwhile, it was not a complete victory for the LCP doctors who were rallying against Melendres since the same Board also recommended the separation from office of Amores for dishonesty and violation of civil service laws. The Board also found 13 of the protesting doctors guilty of falsifying their daily time records. The said doctors face suspension. (Today, September 5)

On the 13th of September, MalacaƱang ordered the preventive suspension of Melendres for three months while he is being investigated by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGCJ) for alleged violation of the anti-graft law. (Manila Times and Philippine Star, September 14)

Now, the story did not stop there. More news about Melendres and other LCP executives saw print.

Immediately after the Board issued its recommendations, Amores decried his persecution at the hands of his superiors at the DOH. Hel specifically pointed to Dayrit as the one who gave him a hard time after he exposed an alleged scheme involving LCP funds. (PDI, September 19)

Some 408 LCP employees and 51 doctors reportedly wrote a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express their support to Melendres. (Manila Bulletin, September 21)

Connected LCP doctors sought clarification from MalacaƱang on the scope of Melendres’ suspension as he was being seen leading a picket within the hospital premises during office hours complete with placards, drums, and streamers; and loitering around LCP holding small meetings with employees, among others. (Manila Bulletin, September 22)

As of this writing, news on LCP continues to keep coming out. Maybe after the PAGC investigation yields its results, the issue will finally come to a rest.

Image: