‘Futile’ diversionary attempt: Hontiveros hits ‘laughable’ sedition, perjury raps against her
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday slammed as “laughable” and a “futile” diversionary attempt the sedition and perjury cases filed against her and her staff members by an employee of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., saying she is ready to face the complaint lodged before the Office of the Ombudsman.
In an online press conference, Hontiveros said the cases were “clearly a last-ditch effort by Pharmally and its backers.”
“The charge to commit sedition is laughable. Holding public officials accountable is not rising publicly and tumultuously against the government,” she said.
“Yung pagtanggap ng mga impormasyon galing sa mga citizen para singilin yung accountability ng mga public officials sa graft and corruption sa mga limitadong pandemic funds, that is hardly, that is not at all, inciting to sedition,” she added.
(Accepting information from citizens to exact accountability of public officials on graft and corruption of limited pandemic funds, that is hardly, that is not at all inciting to sedition.)
“Hindi ‘yan calling on the public to rise publicly and tumultuously against the government. At klaro sa aming mga resibo, walang bribery on the part of anyone in my office,” Hontiveros stressed.
(That is not calling on the public to rise publicly and tumultuously against the government. And it is clear from our receipts that there is no bribery on the part of anyone in my office.)
The 15-page complaint filed by a certain Jaime Vegas, assisted by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, claimed that Hontiveros and some members of her staff bribed witness Veejay Almira to testify against Pharmally, which is at the center of a Senate investigation over its multi-billion supply deals with the government.
“Handang handa kami sa ganitong klaseng walang kakwenta-kwentang akusasyon at sasagutin talaga namin…We will respond to that case in the Office of the Ombudsman at pinagaaralan namin kung ano pang mga hakbang ang kakailanganin para tugunan ito,” Hontiveros went on.
(We are ready to face this nonsense accusation and we will answer it…We will respond to that case in the Office of the Ombudsman and we will study what other steps we can take to reply to this.)
“Itong latest na atake mula sa panig Pharmally at mga backers nila ay patunay lang na they feel the need to try to divert the attention, not only of the committee, hindi lang ng Senado, pero ng buong publiko,” she added.
(This latest attack from the camp of Pharmally and their backers is proof that they feel the need to try and divert the attention, not only of the committee, not only of the Senate but also the public.)
Almira also executed an affidavit attached to Vega’s complaint, now admitting that he was allegedly bribed.
But Hontiveros said Almira first reached out to her office through her official Facebook page on Sept. 3. Almira, according to Hontiveros, then sent an email to her office on Sept. 9, saying he had information about Pharmally.
Hontiveros presented him as a witness during the Sept. 24 hearing, where Almira told senators warehouse staff were instructed to change the production certificates of the face shields to be delivered.
This claim was eventually confirmed by Pharmally official Krizle Mago, who then backtracked on her damning admission and said it was a “pressured response.”
Hontiveros said her office extended assistance to Almira, but this was to help him relocate as he feared for his life after being informed that two motorcycle-riding men offered to pay his friend P2,000 to disclose his residence.
The assistance was given to Almira after he had already testified before the Senate inquiry, Hontiveros further pointed out.
The complaint likewise claimed that Almira was “tempted to falsely, unlawfully and wrongfully implicate” Pharmally because he needed money to buy medicine for his sick child.
But Hontiveros’ chief legislative officer, lawyer Jaye Bekema, said Almira made no mention of any medical need when he first contacted the senator’s office through Facebook in September.
“Tama yung sinabi ni Veejay doon sa kanyang affidavit na mayroong allergies yung anak niya, but the information on the allergies only came out pagkatapos na niyang i-divulge sa amin yung information on Pharmally,” Bekema said.
(Veejay is right when he wrote in his affidavit that his child has allergies, but the information on the allergies only came out after he divulged the information about Pharmally.)
“Yung una niyang entry points [on Sept. 3 and 9] sa office namin ay walang tungkol sa anumang pangangailangan medical,” she added.
(His first entry points to our office, there was no mention of any medical needs.)
Bekema, who said she was still communicating with Almira in October, admitted extending financial help to him in her personal capacity.
She said she sent Almira only a total of P3,500 through GCash, as well as toys for his three-month-old baby.
“But it was always in the nature of humanitarian assistance, labas po yun sa opisina namin. Everything is documented, I have screenshots na siya po yung humingi and very clearly this was after na siya po ay nagsabi na mayroon siyang isisiwalat tungkol sa Pharmally,” Bekema stressed.
(But it was always like humanitarian assistance. It no longer involved our office. Everything is documented, I have screenshots that he was the one who requested the assistance, and very clearly, this was after he disclosed information about Pharmally.)
When asked regarding the possibility of Almira being threatened or pressured to claim he was bribed, Bekema said she has no evidence of this but added that Almira is in a “position of vulnerability.”
“Siya ay blue-collar worker sa Pharmally warehouse. Meron siyang three-month-old na anak na may karamdaman at alam ko rin na takot na takot siya. This one we have evidence on na takot na takot siya kasi pinaghahanap daw siya nung lalaking nakamotorsiklo,” she added.
(He is a blue-collar worker at Pharmally’s warehouse. He has a three-month-old baby with a condition, and I know that he fears for his life. In this one, we have evidence that he is terrified because motorcycle-riding men are looking for him.)
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