Mago ‘incommunicado’ since damning testimony vs Pharmally
MANILA, Philippines — Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive Krizle Grace Mago disappeared a day after her bombshell admission that her company had swindled the government by selling damaged medical-grade face shields with bogus production dates, according to Sen. Richard Gordon.
“We cannot contact her,” Gordon told the Inquirer on Saturday night. “We are concerned something might have happened to her.”
Following Mago’s admission during Friday’s hearing called by the blue ribbon committee headed by Gordon, Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros proposed that she be placed under the Senate’s protection.
Mago requested to be given time to “think about it.”
“I’m also an employee of Pharmally, so I have to consider both sides,” she said in response to the two senators’ proposal.
Mago is one of the incorporators of the undercapitalized trading company, which was formed in September 2019, and serves as head of its regulatory affairs. Pharmally had a paid-up capital of only P625,000 but it managed to bag P11.7 billion worth of contracts with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) to supply the Department of Health (DOH) with face masks and shields, personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing kits.
It is at the center of the blue ribbon committee’s investigation of the allegedly irregular transfer of at least P42 billion in pandemic funds from the DOH to the PS-DBM, which negotiated contracts for medical supplies with Pharmally and other companies.
During the ninth hearing of Gordon’s committee on Friday, Mago confessed that she ordered the company’s warehouse workers to change the 2020 production date to 2021 in the certification documents of the face shields to make it appear that they were produced only this year.
“That is something I cannot deny,” she told the senators, confirming a video testimony of a warehouse worker who blew the whistle on the tampered, damaged, and soiled face masks delivered to the DOH to be used by doctors and nurses in the COVID-19 front lines.
It was Hontiveros who presented the unidentified male worker who spoke about the pandemic safety gear with falsified production dates from Pharmally.
It was also Hontiveros who presented an exchange of text messages between Mago and a former PS-DBM employee during a hearing last week where the Pharmally executive disclosed that the company had delivered 2 million surgical masks in late March last year even before it agreed to a price with the government and delivered 500,000 more on April 6, 2020, before it signed its first deal with the PS-DBM.
During Friday’s hearing, Mago alleged that the instructions to tamper with the face shields came from Mohit Dargani, Pharmally corporate secretary and treasurer.
Dargani denied her allegation, but Mago stood by her testimony and said she was willing to cooperate with the inquiry, which prompted the proposal from Hontiveros and Pangilinan to place her under the Senate’s protective custody.
But since Friday’s hearing, Mago has not contacted the senators about whether she agreed to be placed under their protection.
Gordon told the Inquirer that Mago’s phone had been switched off as early as Friday night after the hearing when Senate blue ribbon committee lawyer Fritzie Aduna tried to contact her.“It is strange that after she said she will talk to me after, and then she suddenly turns her phone off, and is incommunicado,” the senator said of Mago.
Gordon said he had asked the nuns at St. Paul University Philippines in Tuguegarao City, Cagayan province—Mago’s alma mater — to try to contact her family. He said Mago could give “more damaging” statements, but her testimony so far would remain on the record.
But what if Mago withdrew her statements? Gordon said she was under oath when she testified.
He added that the witness presented by Hontiveros had corroborated what Mago said.
“People won’t normally admit something against their interest,” Gordon said.
Sotto orders search
Senate President Vicente Sotto III told the Inquirer that he had instructed the Senate’s Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms to look for Mago.
In a Senate radio program earlier on Saturday, Gordon indicated that his committee might release a preliminary report on the alleged misuse of the pandemic response funds.
He said he had framed his conclusions on the irregularities his committee found in the contracts with Pharmally and the crucial help the company’s executives got from Michael Yang, a longtime Chinese friend of President Rodrigo Duterte who had served as a presidential economic adviser.
“We have seen how they put fake addresses in documents, and how they tampered with the expiry dates of medical supplies, how the people in this company deliberately defrauded the government,” Gordon said.
“To me, it’s already clear, and I will not stop until we catch those crooks,” he said. “I think we have had enough, but I want it rock solid.”
Pharmally executives had earlier disclosed that they were financially struggling and Yang helped by loaning them money and introducing them to pandemic suppliers and his friends in China. Neither Yang nor Pharmally has revealed how much money was loaned.
‘Not a citizen’ of PH
“Mr. Yang, I want to remind you that your stay in the Philippines is a privilege, as well as your opportunity to do business in the Philippines. You are not a citizen of this country, but hold a permanent visa, but if you commit crimes against people of the Philippines, you can be deported,” Gordon said.
The senator appealed for patience from Filipinos as the Senate investigation would be a long-drawn process.
“We are just beginning,” Gordon said. “We have already exposed how they made our health workers use expired face shields; we’re now trying to trace the money trail, on how they got the funding to pay for the supplies which they sold at profit to the government.”