JULY 15, 2009 (STAR) By Sandy Araneta - A doctor who was said to have leaked the medical history of President Arroyo denied yesterday being the source of the reports.

Dr. Maria Niza Bermudez-Reyes, resident obstetrician-gynecologist of Asian Hospital and Medical Center, submitted her affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) denying allegations that she was the source of the stories detailing Mrs. Arroyo’s medical history.

Lawyer Edwin Lacierda formally submitted the affidavit to the NBI detailing how his client could not have been the source.

He stressed the possibility that someone might have hacked the hospital’s computer system to access Mrs. Arroyo’s medical records.

Lacierda said the separate sworn statements submitted by the hospital staff did not mention Reyes as the leak.

He acknowledged though the affidavits submitted by three other medical staff.

“The affidavits (of the three medical staff) merely stated that she allegedly instructed the three non-medical staff to open the file of the President. We submitted our affidavit and we categorically denied the assertions of those three non-medical staff,” he said.

Lacierda said Reyes could not have given the order to open the President’s medical records since she was with another patient at that time.

“There were also other inconsistencies in the statements of the non-medical staff as to the time,” Lacierda pointed out.

Reyes was mentioned after the NBI interviewed the three hospital staff who all claimed the doctor ordered them to retrieve President Arroyo’s medical records from the hospital’s computers.

An NBI official said they are focusing on the possible motive of Reyes in printing out the President’s medical records.

Reyes is a resident physician of the hospital’s Center for Women’s Health.

“She has nothing to do with President Arroyo’s check-up at all. So we are determining if the claims that she allegedly asked for print out is indeed true or not,” the source said.

NBI Director Nestor Mantaring said investigators have already taken the statements of the hospital employees who have access to the medical bulletin and records of Mrs. Arroyo.

There were reports that Mrs. Arroyo’s stay at the Asian Hospital was in connection with repairs of a leak in the breast implants done on her in the 1980s.

Malacañang replied by saying the President merely went for a check-up and the results of the biopsy showed the lump on her breast and cyst in her groin were benign.

Mantaring said the NBI conducted the probe on the request of the Asian Hospital to determine the possible administrative liability of any of its employees.

“Malacañang has nothing to do with the ongoing probe. This is a request of a private hospital to conduct investigation for possible administrative liability of any of its hospital employees for getting patients’ files and leaking it,” he said.

Mantaring stressed medical records are confidential and medical practitioners are governed by law against disclosure.

He would not confirm if the doctors and nurses who attended to the President have given their respective statements.

The focus of the probe, Mantaring said, is to determine the leak in violation of the code of conduct for medical practitioners and the consequent administrative liability.

Lacierda, on the other hand, said Reyes is an obstetrician-gynecologist of the hospital with specialty on ultrasound.

On Thursdays Reyes is required to report to the hospital while she maintains her own private practice.

Lacierda said it was on July 2 that Reyes was attending to a patient at ultrasound when the President was at the hospital for a check- up.

“She (Reyes) was not part of the team who attended to the President. The opportunity presented itself. She was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda also explained that Reyes, as well as other doctors, are not considered employees of the hospital.

He said the non-medical staff are considered employees of the hospital.

Lacierda said doctors are not allowed access to the computers.

“Only the non-medical staff are given clearance, and are given passwords to open anyone’s file. As long as they have the clearance and the password, they can open anyone’s file,” Lacierda explained.

And because the patient is a high profile personality, Lacierda explained a non-medical staff might have opened the President’s medical history out of curiosity.

When asked as to why the medical staff singled out Reyes, Lacierda suggested the person who may have opened the file was afraid to be terminated.

Lacierda said he was told by a hospital official that the source that leaked the information wanted money.

“If that is the motive, count the doctor (Reyes) out because she has a stable practice. She is also a stockholder of Asian Hospital,” he said.


Face to face with PGMA, Vagni a picture of gratitude

[PHOTO AT LEFT - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is all smiles as she welcomes Eugenio Vagni, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) worker during a courtesy call on her Tuesday (July 14, 2009) at Malacanang's Music Room. Vagni, the Italian Red Cross worker, was the last of three Red Cross volunteers to be freed (before dawn of July 12, 2009) after they were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf bandits last January 15, 2009 in Sulu. At left is Philippine National Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon. (Rolando Mailo/OPS-NIB Photo)]

Gaunt but renewed after half a year of captivity at the hands of his kidnappers, Italian Red Cross volunteer Eugenio Vagni was a picture of gratitude as he faced President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacanang this morning.

He was profusely thankful for the support extended him by the Chief Executive who ordered an all-out rescue operation against the Abu Sayyaf Group which kidnapped Vagni and two other International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) workers.

The President in turn, welcomed the 62-year old Vagni with a warm smile.

“Good to have you back. Welcome,” she told Vagni, the last of three ICRC workers taken captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Patikul, Sulu January of this year.

Vagni was released Sunday morning in Maimbung town in Sulu, after almost six months in captivity.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, together with Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, joined the President in welcoming Vagni at Malacanang’s Music Room.

Ermita said Vagni related to the President how life was with the bandits-- his feeling of hopelessness as well as a life of prayers that were eventually answered with his release.

The Executive Secretary further said that Vagni will fly back to Italy then to the ICRC Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

“He will do some thinking back home,” Ermita said.

Aside from Vagni, also held captive were 44-year-old Filipina engineer Mary Jean Lacaba and 38-year-old Swiss Andreas Notter.

Lacaba was released by the kidnappers last April 2 after 77 days in captivity while Notter walked to freedom on April 18 in Indanan, Sulu amid intense military operations.

The three ICRC workers were on a humanitarian mission in Sulu when the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Albader Parad kidnapped them.

Accompanying Vagni during the call were Italian Ambassador to the Philippines Reubens Fedele, Philippine National Red Cross Chair Senator Richard Gordon, Western Mindanao Command Commanding General Nelson Allga and Task Force Comet head Major General Juancho Sabban.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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