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Pharmally exec Mago retracts ‘swindling’ admission

MANILA, Philippines — Three days after seeking refuge at the House of Representatives, Krizle Grace Mago on Monday recanted her statement that Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. had “swindled” the government in its medical supply contracts, claiming her statement was a “pressured response.”

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Mago, the former regulatory affairs chief of Pharmally, added during the hearing of the House good government and public accountability committee that she was not in the “best frame of mind” to think clearly when she testified before the Senate blue ribbon committee.

“Regarding my previous testimonies on questions pertaining to swindling the government, I do admit that it was a pressured response,” she said on Monday morning.

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“Given the amount of pressure I was under at that time and even the rush of emotions associated with the allegations made and my subsequent admission, I was not in the proper frame of mind to think clearly,” said Mago, who was physically present during the House hearing.

She was referring to her statement before the Senate that Pharmally, in changing the production certificates of face shields, had “swindled” the government.

Mago also denied statements made by an unidentified witness who claimed that Pharmally tampered with the production certificates of “substandard” face shields.

“I deny all allegations made by the unidentified witness, who appeared in a video presented by Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Sept. 24, 2021,” she said.

Mago also said the company never sold any expired, damaged or substandard face shields or other COVID-19 supplies.

She was out of the public eye for almost a week, with senators earlier expressing alarm that she had been “incommunicado” following her damning testimony before the Senate.

Last week, Mago wrote to the House to seek protective custody, saying she feared for her life and liberty, and that she wanted to speak before a forum without “undue pressure and influence.”

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Asked by DIWA Rep. Michael Edgar Aglipay, the committee chair, if she was ready to face perjury charges for backtracking on her previous statements made under oath, Mago said: “Yes.”

After more than three hours of questioning, the panel terminated its motu proprio inquiry on the Pharmally contracts with the government.

Aglipay said they expected to come out with a committee report on the findings within two months.

‘Rehearsed witness’

Senators quickly rejected Mago’s retraction.

“A statement made under oath incriminating oneself has more weight than a recantation,” Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters.

“She was under pressure, she says? But the questions posed to her were delivered in calm and very measured manners,” noted Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

“That she recanted? What do you expect — she has been taken into the bosom of Pharmally and interests protective of the administration’s interest, no matter how vile,” he said in a text message to reporters.

“She is already locked in an embrace with the demon, how would she be able to escape,” Gordon said in Filipino.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Mago was now clearly compromised by certain interests.

“We call that a ‘rehearsed witness,’” he said in a Viber message.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon took issue with Mago’s remark that her confession had been made under duress.

“Ms Mago’s statement was spontaneous, with no trace of any ‘pressure’ being exerted,” he said.

Doubting the claim of being pressured, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III pointed out that Mago had made her earlier confession in the Senate from the comfort of her own home, as she was testifying via video conference.

Emotional

Her voice breaking several times during the hearing, Mago admitted that her experience testifying before the Senate was very difficult for a “shy and socially awkward” person like her.

“It was extremely traumatic for me to be accused of lying and to be threatened with contempt. Personally, I was perplexed on how I could be perceived as a liar, when I was simply answering questions directly based on the information that was reflected on our records. I even willingly submitted the documents upon request,” she said.

Mago said the “overwhelming pressure and the intense scrutiny” of the Senate investigation had a “detrimental effect” on her mental health, adding that she tested positive for COVID-19 during the hearings, taking a toll on her physical health.

Mago recalled her Sept. 13 testimony on Pharmally’s first contract with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

“After I relayed the sequence of events for that specific contract, one thing that stood out the most was the reaction to the advance delivery, which included disparaging remarks like ‘parang Grab lang,’” Mago said.

She explained that they received face shields that were “inconsistently packed” and that she raised this concern to the Pharmally management, which decided in August to repack “uniformly in groups of 10 face shields per packaging.”

“In the conduct of the repacking, the product certificates got mixed up and some (certificates) were subsequently discarded because the staff only needed to put one product certificate per packaging,” she said.

‘Two truths’

Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite asked her which of the “two truths” she said before two chambers of Congress was true.

“I am more comfortable telling the truth in an environment without pressure. That’s the main reason I chose to write the House of Representatives,” Mago said. “As regards to the two truths, I am more comfortable and confident in the statements that I gave now because I was able to prepare for it, and I reviewed my sources. At the same time, I executed an affidavit.”

In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday that Cabinet members were still willing to attend the Senate inquiry on the government’s pandemic purchases because they have nothing to hide, even though President Duterte announced that he would issue an order barring them from joining the probe.

—WITH A REPORT FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA
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