Senate probe on ‘overpriced’ pandemic deals may reach Duterte — Gordon
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday raised the possibility that his committee’s investigation into the controversial purchase of “overpriced” pandemic-related goods could reach as high as President Rodrigo Duterte.
“You go back to the first picture where Pharmally came in. The picture was with the President,” Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee, told reporters in an online interview.
Gordon was referring to a 2017 video which showed former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang and Pharmally officials meeting the President in Davao City.
The same video was played during last Friday’s Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.
“Pagpasok, siya (Yang) ang nagpapakilala (When Yang entered, he was the one making introductions). He’s the one doing all the talking and then we have other pictures of them, so may connections sa Pharmally (Pharmally really has connections)…Look at how influential this Yang is and this Pharmally is,” the senator went on.
The Senate blue ribbon committee has been looking into the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of pandemic funds.
During the inquiry, senators had questioned the DOH’s transfer of P42 billion to the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) for the procurement of pandemic response supplies, including allegedly overpriced items purchased from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Pharmally has been at the center of the Senates’s investigation since the DBM-PS under its former head, Christopher Lao, awarded over P8.6 billion in contracts to procure medical supplies in 2020 even as the firm was only several months old and only had a paid-up capital of P625,000.
“[The investigation] can go as high as the President…the president has a lot to explain, all of a sudden this guy Yang brings in this guy Pharmally, all of a sudden Pharmally is getting it and all his boys are giving it to Pharmally. So the President should explain,” Gordon said in an interview over One News’ “The Chiefs” late Monday.
‘What are we hiding?’
In a taped address aired Tuesday, Duterte defended the appointment of his people from Davao City to various offices in the government, including Lao’s, saying he was only repaying a debt of gratitude.
Duterte said Lao is his “fraternal brother” and was a member of his campaign team in 2016 and who has extended legal assistance when he was still Davao City mayor.
“I don’t know why the President should lose his cool because Lao is being investigated? What are we hiding here?” Gordon went on.
The senator said that the possibility that the awarding of contracts to Pharmally was influenced by what seems to be links with Duterte’s former economic adviser should also be looked into.
“Baka meron pang nagbubulong ‘O tao ni presidente yan bigyan niyo ng kontrata yan’ Possible o hindi? That’s what we want to know,” the senator said.
(There may be someone whispering ‘That’s the President’s people, they should be given contracts.’ Possible or not? That’s what we want to know.)
Furthermore, Gordon said the President should also explain why he chose to lash out against the Senate and the Commission on Audit (COA) instead of his own people.
“Bakit hindi niya sinisita? Sinisita niya kami, sinisita niya ang COA. Ba’t di niya tanungin. ‘Ikaw Lao, totoo ba yan? Totoo ba yan na nagbigay ka ng 8.7 billion dito sa Pharmally, totoo ba yang malalaking amount na yan pinapayagan mo?’,” he said.
(Why is he not calling them out, why is he calling out the Senate and COA instead? Why won’t he ask ‘You, Lao, is this true? Is it true that you awarded Pharmally with nearly P8.7 billion in contracts, is that huge amount true?)
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