Firm probed by BI, NBI for terror links got P100M from OFWs in 7 months – estimates

April 22, 2017 - 11:56 AM
A worker transacts business through the POEA's One-stop Shop for OFWs seen here in Philippine Star file photo by Michael Varcas.


MANILA – The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has advised overseas job seekers seeking medical fitness certification to avoid clinics whose accreditation has been suspended by the Department of Health pending investigation for violations of the migrant workers law.

This, even as the umbrella company under which these clinics operate is also under a separate investigation by the NBI and the Bureau of Immigration for its links to a suspected terrorist arrested in late March. It is believed to have collected at least P100 million from 20,000 Kuwait-bound OFWs between August 2016 and February 2017.

The DOH earlier suspended the operation of eight medical facilities for overseas workers and seafarers amid a review of monopolistic practices in the conduct of pre-employment medical tests for OFWs bound for Kuwait.

Monopolistic practices are prohibited by the Migrant Workers’ Act  or RA 8042 as amended by R.R.10022.

The clinics are associated with the controversial agency Winston Q8 Certification System, now also under investigation after being linked to Kuwaiti national Hussein al-Dhafiri. Along with a Syrian woman he introduced as his wife, al-Dhafiri was arrested by a composite government team led by immigration agents on March 25, and is wanted on terrorism-related charges in his country.

Al-Dhafiri is reportedly a bomb maker for the ISIS whose identity was exposed by the Embassy of Kuwait to police authorities. The embassy requested his deportation to Kuwait to face several  charges in connection with an alleged plot to bomb certain targets there.

P100M collected from OFWs

Owing to the monopoly it enjoyed in seven months from August 2016 to February 2017, industry estimates put Winston’s total collection from 20,000 Kuwait-bound Filipino workers at P100 million. Under the Winston system, OFWs had to shell out P5,000 each to Winston even before they can be examined by the clinics in its network.

The suspended medical clinics associated with Winston are 1) ABAKKUS MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC SERVICES, Calatagan St., Makati City; 2) AGONCILLO MEDICAL CLINIC, Agoncillo St., Malate, Manila; 3) RUBEN C. BARTOLOME, M.D. CLINIC INC., Nakpil St., Malate, Manila; 4) GLOBAL MEDICAL CLINIC, INC., Manini St., Malate, Manila; 5) ORION MEDICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC CENTER; P. Hidalgo St., Malate, Manila ; 6) OUR HEALTH MEDICAL AND DIAGNOSTIC CENTER, Malate, Manila; 7) OUR LADY OF ALL NATIONS XRAY, LABORATORY, MEDICAL AND DENTAL CLINIC, Remedios St., Malate, Manila; and 8) SAN MARCELINO MEDICAL CLINIC, Leon Guinto St., Malate, Manila.

The POEA also ordered licensed recruitment and manning agencies to refrain from sending their applicants to the suspended clinics until their suspension is lifted by the Department of Health.

‘Revoke accreditation altogether’

The  accreditation  of the local DOH-accredited clinics who participated in the illegal medical examination system implemented by Winston Q8 Certification System should be completely revoked, according to recruitment and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani.

Migrant support groups earlier denounced Winston’s monopoly after OFWs bound for Kuwait were made to pay the certification payments of P 5,500 to Winston even before they are allowed to be examined by the 8 accredited clinics.

In all, Geslani estimates the Winston Medical System has collected more than 100 million pesos from  20,000 Filipino workers deployed to  Kuwait  from August, 2016-February, 2017.

Despite DOH Circular No. 2016-0627 dated September 23, 2016 prohibiting the collection of excessive fees for medical examinations for OFWS  bound for Kuwait, Geslani said the Winston Medical System implemented in  2016 continues to defy said DOH circular and violate the prohibition against the the monopoly  of certain groups of clinics to conduct medical examinations for certain receiving countries.