Capitol to probe hospital lot dispute

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

The Iloilo provincial board (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) will investigate the dispute over donated land in San Joaquin, where a district hospital is located.

The investigation will be led by the Committee on Health and Sanitation, along with the Committee on Public Order and Security, and the Committee on Justice, Good Government, and Human Rights.

The San Joaquin Mother and Child Hospital in Sitio Inawangan, Purok 5, is embroiled in controversy following a takeover attempt by Vilma Getuya, the mother of the town’s vice mayor.

Getuya allegedly claimed that she donated the 1,900-square-meter lot on which the hospital is built.

A “No Entry Private Property” sign and cyclone wire fencing were erected at the facility, and the rooms were padlocked by the family.

“A few days ago, the main site of the San Joaquin Mother and Child Hospital, which was formerly the San Joaquin Rural Health Unit dispensary, was forcibly taken over by several private persons, in connivance with some local officials,” said Provincial Baord Member Jo Ann B. Germinanda, Chairperson of the Committee on Health and Sanitation, in her privilege speech during the board’s regular session on Tuesday, June 11.

Germinanda pointed out that among the officials complicit in the takeover is Christopher Selibio, Punong Barangay of Purok 5, and personnel from the San Joaquin Police Station.

“These conspirators barricaded the health care facility, preventing the lawful entry of government officials and employees. The events that transpired were not a mere confluence of events. They were an execution of a well-laid plan,” she added.

She also condemned the local police’s passive stance during the incident.

The Western Visayas Medical Center (WVMC), the donee of the land, was scheduled to inspect and repair the facility’s broken X-ray machine at their request. However, the inspection was hindered by the fencing.

“In this instance, the involvement of Vilma Getuya, Vice Mayor Marvie Grace Getuya Lago, Mario Getuya, and/or lawyers from Manila should be looked into,” Germinanda added.

Germinanda raised critical questions regarding Vilma Getuya’s claim that the property, which she allegedly donated to WVMC in 2003, should revert to her since the facility was already “abandoned.”

An inspection by WVMC and Department of Health personnel confirmed that the hospital remains operational.

Germinanda questioned the validity of the donation, pointing out that the health facility had been established and functioning since the early 1990s, well before the alleged donation.

“How was she (Vilma Getuya) able to donate a parcel of land where structures of a government-owned health facility were already constructed even before the donation was made? The rural health unit that later became a Primary Healthcare Facility, then a Community Hospital, then a Mother and Child Hospital, started way back in 1990-1993?”

“How can Mrs. Vilma Getuya transfer an alleged donated property by Joaquin Santacruz to herself when it is public knowledge that a government health facility is currently situated and used?” she added.

The ten-bed municipal hospital (previously San Joaquin Municipal Hospital) was established under Republic Act No. 6870, enacted in March 1990 under then-President Corazon Aquino.

The hospital was constructed to provide healthcare services to the residents of San Joaquin and improve access to medical care in the area, especially in the nearby towns from the province of Antique.

Germinanda also raised concerns about the actions of the Punong Barangay, who issued a certificate stating the property was abandoned, a function typically reserved for a Building Official or Municipal Assessor.

A joint committee hearing to investigate the matter thoroughly will be discussed next week, according to Germinanda.