Marcoleta stops queries on Yang’s citizenship, says they’re unrelated to the hearings
MANILA, Philippines — Sagip Rep. Rodante Marcoleta has asked a committee to stop questioning Chinese businessman Michael Yang on his stay in the country and his citizenship, saying it is beyond the investigation on alleged overpriced pandemic supplies.
Marcoleta’s request during the House committee on good government and public accountability hearing on Monday came after Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. France Castro also asked about how long Yang held the post as President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic adviser.
“Point of order, Mr. Chair. I’d like to know the purpose why our dear colleague is asking for documents […] Mr. Chair I am guided by the rules of our committee, considering the long time that I have worked with this committee you have always advocated that we will do this even the questioning should be germane and consistent with the trajectory and the object of our inquiry,” he said.
“The inquiry is about the COA report of 2020 as it relates to the DOH fund as transferred to the PS-DBM. I think with all due respect, the questions are already beyond the directions to which this investigation is supposed to go, Mr. Chair,” he added.
In response, Castro said that it is material to ascertaining that no irregularity happened during the procurement of pandemic supplies, as Yang’s name popped up during the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee.
Both the House and Senate committees are doing a probe based on the Commission on Audit (COA) report, which said that the Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 funds worth P67.32 billion contained deficiencies.
In the Senate version, it was revealed that Yang guaranteed, and provided financial help to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which managed to bag P8.7 billion-worth of contracts with DOH, from the COVID-19 funds allocated to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
“Tinatanong ko lang po ito dahil related po ito sa mga nakuha ko pong mga information based doon sa Senate hearing, at maganda pong ma-establish natin dito na wala pong mga hocus pocus — ibig sabihin natin dito, kalokohang na nangyari dito sa pagbili ng anumang materials natin sa pandemya,” Castro noted.
(I am just asking this because it is related to the information I got based on the Senate hearing, and it is good for us to establish that there is no hocus pocus here — which means that no irregularities happened in the purchase of whatever materials were needed for the pandemic.)
Aside from this, Castro also asked why Marcoleta objected to her line of questioning when the latter also raised issues not related to the hearing, like the alleged wrong COVID-19 tests done by the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
In response, Marcoleta said he sought permission from committee chair and DIWA party-list Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay.
“And related po ito Mr. Chair, bakit kanina naman po si DS nagtanong siya sa PRC, doon tungkol sa mga testing-testing sa PRC na hindi naman ito related din dito, pwede bang matanong din ‘yon,” Castro said.
(And this is related to the hearing Mr. Chair, why was the deputy speaker allowed to ask about the PRC, about the erroneous testing allegedly done by PRC when it is not really related to the hearing. So can I also question that?)
“May I clarify that Mr. Chair, I did that because […] before I left out, I made sure that I will not forget what I am supposed to watch the difference […] and I asked the permission of the chair if I can only ask a few questions because I did not want to forget that,” Marcoleta replied.
This is not the first time that lawmakers clashed about the probe being done by the House committee: earlier, Castro’s fellow Makabayan bloc member and Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite asked the committee to allow the use of testimonies made by Pharmally representatives before the Senate.
However, Reps. Johnny Pimentel and Bernadette Herrera-Dy claimed that Gaite’s motion goes against the state of the House as a separate institution from the Senate — which means the proceedings cannot be adopted.
But Gaite clarified that he was only asking for the adoption of the testimonies and not the proceedings itself.