Pharmally report vs Duterte awaits senators’ nod | Inquirer News

Pharmally report vs Duterte awaits senators’ nod

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:30 AM June 01, 2022
Gordon tells Duterte: I did not steal from Subic funds

Sen. Richard Gordon and President Rodrigo Duterte. (Composite image from INQUIRER FILE PHOTOS)

MANILA, Philippines — The majority of the Senate blue ribbon committee members have not signed a report alleging misuse of state funds for pandemic supplies and recommending prosecution of President Rodrigo Duterte for his “betrayal of public trust” for allegedly defending those involved in the irregularities.

In a speech on Tuesday, committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon said the 113-page partial report that he authored gave a “painful, if not horrific, example of treason when there is no armed conflict.”

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The committee held 18 hearings in a span of seven months ending in January this year to scrutinize the deals between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) involving the health agency’s P42-billion pandemic fund.

The committee found that of this amount, P11.11 billion worth of supply contracts were awarded by the PS-DBM and DOH to a single entity, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Inc., a “severely undercapitalized” company run by executives with close links to Michael Yang, a Chinese businessman and a close friend and former economic adviser to Duterte.

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The report said Pharmally sold supplies to the government under contracts that were marred by irregularities such as substandard deliveries and expired items, “ghost” deliveries or nondeliveries, and tampered expiry certificates. Its company executives also evaded paying the right taxes, it said.

The pandemic supplies included face masks and shields, COVID-19 test kits, and personal protective equipment.

‘Favorite supplier’

“Pharmally is undoubtedly the favorite supplier in these parts. Organized only in September of 2019, with a measly paid-up capital of P625,000, the company and its partners garnered contracts with PS-DBM in the mind-boggling billions of pesos,” the report said.

Sen. Imee Marcos, who participated in the hearings, said she was not inclined to sign the committee report. This was the position taken by other blue ribbon committee members, she said.

“We wanted an investigation but there are so many inclusions that we do not think they are merited given the evidence,” she said.

Marcos said she would have signed with reservations, but was wary that her signature would indicate her assent to the overall report.

Plunder case pushed

Without the approval of the majority of the 20 committee members, the blue ribbon committee report would be shelved or archived and its recommendations would not be acted upon or forwarded to relevant authorities in the justice and executive branches for them to take action.

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The report recommended the filing of plunder, graft, estafa and perjury charges against several former government officials and private individuals, including Christopher Lloyd Lao and Warren Rex Liong, former officials of the PS-DBM; Pharmally executives Twinkle Dargani, Mohit Dargani, Linconn Ong, Krizle Grace Mago and Huang Tzu Yen.

It also sought the deportation of Yang, Lin Weixiong and Qing Jin Ke.

A touchy aspect of the report was the inclusion of the recommendation to prosecute the president for alleged betrayal of public trust, an impeachable offense.

According to the report, Duterte betrayed the public trust by appointing Yang, a foreign national, as an economic adviser in 2018, who afterward, introduced numerous Chinese suppliers with whom the government transacted “and in the process enriched himself immensely.”

“As the Senate investigation unfolded, revealing the participation of well-placed officials in government, the President took the surprising position of undermining the ongoing proceedings,” the report said.

It chided the president for “seeking to discredit” and threatening the Commission on Audit after it had flagged the irregular transactions.

The president also allegedly tried to discredit the credibility of the Senate by “publicly attacking, maligning and disrespecting” the institution and its members.

“The President, acting as self-appointed lead defense counsel, and without a modicum of inquiry, absolves all possible malefactors by sweepingly declaring that the purchases by the PS-DBM and DOH were all above board and that those were not tainted by graft and corruption,” the report said.

‘Waste’ of time

In a statement in October last year, Duterte said he didn’t care what the senators would do with Pharmally and that as far as the government was concerned it obtained the supplies that it paid for. What he was more concerned about was the time “wasted” by his Cabinet members attending the hearings, preventing them from focusing on pandemic response.

Aside from Gordon, those who have signed the report were Senators Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Aquilino Pimentel III, Risa Hontiveros, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

Pimentel, Hontiveros, Lacson and Recto indicated that they wanted to propose amendments.

‘Make it clear’

In addition to Marcos, those who have not signed the report were Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Sherwin Gatchalian, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Christopher Lawrence Go, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., and Francis Tolentino.

“If you are voting for or against our report, let us make it clear in the record,” Gordon said in his speech, adding that he was giving other senators a chance to sign it without antagonizing or badmouthing them.

“But they cannot shirk from our responsibilities or our duty to act on a committee report by not signing, either in agreement or disagreement,” he said.

“I look forward to clarity on the respective positive or negative responses of our senators. I even looked at the possibility that they may say they will dissent or they will amend or they will interpellate which is had been the practice,” the senator said.

The Pharmally fund mess happened when the Filipino people expected their leaders to come up with a plan for a strong response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gordon said in his speech.

“As responsible citizens, we cannot sit idly by and say that this is not our problem. On the contrary; to not say anything, to not do anything is to be complicit in this heinousness,” the committee report said.

“Not to act is to indict ourselves as a people, who during a time of crisis, insecurity, poverty, and perdition chose not to confront and punish the corrupt, but tolerate brutal inhumanity,” it said.

RELATED STORIES

Gordon asks senators to reveal stand on Pharmally probe: ‘We can’t shrink from our duty’

Drilon: Pharmally probe not waste of time, next Congress can still use findings

Senate panel finds Duterte accountable for ‘complicity’ in ‘plunder’

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TAGS: Pharmally committee report, Pharmally probe, Richard Gordon, Rodrigo Duterte
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