Hontiveros asks: Who paid for P1.85-M chartered flight of Dargani siblings?
MANILA, Philippines — “Who financed the Dargani siblings’ P1.850-million chartered flight out of the country?”
This is the question Senator Risa Hontiveros plans to ask during the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon’s investigation into the government deals made with the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
In an online press conference on Wednesday, Hontiveros presented a document that showed that the chartered flight of Pharmally executives and siblings Mohit and Twinkle Dargani from Davao to Kuala Lumpur cost $37,000.
“Sa mabilisang computation, yan po P1.850 million for just one flight. At sa totoo lamang, ang resibo na ito na nagpapakita ng halaga na yan ay nagpapakita ng bayad pa lamang para sa eroplano [If we compute it quickly, it’s P1.850 million for just one flight. And this receipt shows that that is the cost only of the plane itself],” she said.
“Again, sana all. Parang nag-book lang ng halagang dalawang milyong byahe sa app [Again, I wish everyone could afford that. It’s like they just booked a P2-million flight on an app],” she added.
“Kasama sa saklaw ng pagtatanong na who arranged and financed this latest attempt, yung attempted na pagtakas ng magkapatid na Dargani [Our questions will cover who could have arranged and financed this latest attempt of the Dargani siblings to escape],” she further said.
According to Hontiveros, the document was from Seletar Jet Charter Pte Ltd, the operator of the chartered plane.
Hontiveros’ office received the document from a source and was “verified,” her legislative staff said.
Hontiveros likewise questioned how the siblings were able to avail of the P1.850-million chartered flight considering the amount of taxes they paid in previous years.
According to Hontiveros, Mohit paid P97,241 in 2020 and P22,062 in income tax in 2019.
Meanwhile, Twinkle paid P1,000 in income tax in 2020, lower than the P29,187 she paid in 2018, Hontiveros noted.
The same figures were earlier presented during a previous blue ribbon committee hearing by Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who cited records from the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
“Kaya ang nais kong itanong sa susunod na hearing ay ito: Kung kinaya ng mga Darganis na magbayad ng ganyang halaga, na halos 2-milyon pesos para sa isang chartered flight, mukhang hindi tama ang income tax na binayaran nila,” Hontiveros went on.
(That is why I want to ask this in the next hearing: How can the Darganis pay this amount of nearly P2 million for a chartered flight, are they paying the right income tax?)
“At bukod pa dyan, kung hindi sila ang nagbayad, ang tanong tuloy, sino ang nagbayad? The Darganis must be very important to that person who paid for it,” she added.
(And aside from that, if they did not pay it, who did? The Darganis must be very important to that person who paid for it.)
Hontiveros also wondered why the Dargani siblings were able to board the aircraft when their names were included in an immigration lookout bulletin as early as September.
She pointed this out after her office obtained an incident report from the day of their flight.
The report stated that “[u]pon arrival of the passengers, they were presented to the immigration personnel at the ramp near the aircraft and were checked personally one by one with their passport, and they were allowed to board the aircraft.”
This raises suspicion, Hontiveros said, that a scheme akin to the “pastillas” modus may have been involved.
“Since my committee exposed the pastillas scheme, interesado ako to dig deeper. But could it be possible na nabigyan ng pastillas itong mga frontline immigration officer [is it possible that a frontline immigration officer was given ‘pastillas’]?” Hontiveros said.
But the senator said she has yet to gather enough evidence to prove this.
She added that she is also not ruling out the possibility that the immigration officers tasked to check the Darganis’ passports were the ones who tipped off the Senate security about the siblings’ whereabouts.
“Or in the better case scenario, sila ba ang nag-tip off sa Senate [were they the ones who sent a tip to the] OSAA (Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms)?” she added.
“And the biggest question of all: Is there a reason kung bakit Davao airport ang pinili nilang departure point [why they chose the Davao airport as their departure point]?” she also said.
The Dargani siblings are currently in the custody of the Senate after their arrest at the Davao City Airport last Nov. 14 when they were about to flee to Malaysia.
The Senate ordered the arrest of the two after they were cited in contempt for their “refusal” to submit documents earlier subpoenaed by the blue ribbon committee.
Pharmally is at the center of the panel’s investigation into the Department of Health’s transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management for the procurement of medical supplies at the height of the pandemic.
Over P8.6 billion of this went to the contracts awarded to Pharmally in 2020. Senators doubted the financial capacity of the firm since it was only established in 2019 with a small capital of P625,000 when it secured the supply deals.
The blue ribbon committee is set to resume its investigation this Friday, Nov. 26.
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