House protection for Pharmally witness Mago is over
MANILA, Philippines — A key witness in the Senate investigation into the billions worth of contracts for allegedly overpriced pandemic supplies awarded to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. has left the House of Representatives’ protective custody.
House committee on good governance and accountability chairperson Edgar Aglipay said Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executive Krizle Grace Mago asked to be released from the committee’s protective custody.
“Nagsulat siya ng letter sa leadership last week na gusto na niyang umalis, so we allowed her. She left two days ago,” Aglipay said in an interview with reporters.
(She wrote a letter to the leadership last week that she wanted to leave, so we allowed her. She left two days ago.)
Mago is the regulatory affairs head and one of the incorporators of Pharmally, established in 2019 with a paid-up capital of only P625,000 and zero income before it was awarded the contracts for face shields and masks, personal protective equipment, and COVID-19 test kits in 2020.
She admitted during a Senate hearing that Pharmally had “swindled” the government by selling medical-grade face shields with bogus production dates.
She also confirmed a Pharmally warehouse worker’s testimony that she had ordered that certificate documents be changed to show that medical-grade face shields the company had sold to the DOH were produced in 2021 instead of 2020.
She also confirmed the worker’s statement that their deliveries included face shields that were damaged or soiled.
She briefly “disappeared” after her damning revelations but was later reported to be under the House’s protective custody in early October.
Mago retracts ‘swindling’ admission
Mago said she sought protective custody from the House because she believes she cannot speak freely on the issue without “feeling threatened” by various individuals.
Mago 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.
“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.
It was not long before the Senate 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.
Francis Pangilinan described Mago as clearly compromised by certain interests.
“We call that a ‘rehearsed witness,’” he said in a Viber message.
Franklin Drilon disputed Mago’s claim that her confession was made under duress.
“Ms Mago’s statement was spontaneous, with no trace of any ‘pressure’ being exerted,” he said.
Senator Aquilino Pimentel III challenged Mago’s claim of being pressured, pointing out that she testified via videoconference from the comfort of her own home earlier in the day.
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