Senators rebuff Duterte’s martial law tag vs Pharmally probe
MANILA, Philippines — Several senators on Tuesday rejected President Rodrigo Duterte’s martial law tag against the Senate’s order to detain Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. director Linconn Ong for evading questions during the chamber’s investigation.
“Obviously a mislay,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in an online message when sought for comment on Duterte’s claim.
As for Senator Panfilo Lacson, he said the President should be aware of Congress’ constitutional powers.
“The President should know better. He used to be a congressman,” Lacson said in an ANC interview.
In a public address aired late Monday, the President blasted the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation into government supply deals awarded to Pharmally.
Duterte directed his ire at senators over their move to detain Ong as they deemed his answers “evasive.”
“I thought the people in the Philippines don’t like martial law,” he added in Filipino. “Now look at what the Senate has done. It is just more than martial law,” Duterte had said.
“Martial law is better because you’re taken to a military court. At least, there is a court hearing, and the person accused is afforded the right to be heard,” he added.
Ong is currently under the custody of the Senate after he was held in contempt for evading questions. He was supposed to be transferred to the Pasay City Jail last Friday.
His planned transfer to the city jail was prompted by his repeated refusal to divulge how much Pharmally has supposedly borrowed from former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang.
“It’s done within the powers of the Senate to cite him in contempt of the committee and detain him in the premises of the Senate. We can even transfer him to other facilities. That’s how it is. He has been evasive in his answers to the senators,” Lacson went on.
“As long as he refuses to cooperate, he will stay under detention until such time we have approved the committee report if and when it is submitted by the blue ribbon chairman or the committee itself,” he added.
Even though Ong has a right to refuse to answer questions, Lacson pointed out that the Senate is also within its rights to detain him as long as it is needed within limits set by the Supreme Court.
“If he continues to be evasive, not to cooperate, I would guess he would be spending Christmas and even New Year’s Eve in his temporary cell. It’s all up to him,” Lacson, however, said.
Meanwhile, Senator Francis Pangilinan has asked Duterte to explain why Pharmally officials acquired luxury cars less than a year after winning contracts.
“He should instead explain the Lamborghinis, the Porsches of Pharmally execs. They wasted half a billion pesos worth of substandard, expired Pharmally test kits and the grossly overpriced masks and face shields,” Pangilinan said.
The Senate blue ribbon panel has been looking into the government’s transactions with Pharmally, which was awarded over P8.6 billion worth of supply contracts for medical supplies in 2020 despite being only several months old and having just P625,000 in paid-up capital.
The Senate is set to conduct its 10th hearing on the matter this Thursday, Sept. 30.
Pharmally chairman and president Huang Tzu Yen has previously denied that they were favored in any way in the government’s procurement of medical supplies in 2020, saying the firm has been “unfairly prejudged.”
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