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Opposition senator’s plan going into 19th Congress

Hontiveros wants to keep Pharmally probe alive

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 05:38 AM June 02, 2022
Sen. Risa Hontiveros. STORY: Hontiveros wants to keep Pharmally probe alive

Sen. Risa Hontiveros  (File photo by VOLTAIRE F. DOMINGO / Senate PRIB)

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate should revive its investigation of the fund scam involving Pharmally Pharmaceutical Inc. in the 19th Congress as the finding by its blue ribbon committee failed to obtain majority support from its members, reelected opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros said on Wednesday.

Hontiveros said she was open to sponsoring a resolution that would call for a new inquiry into the Pharmally scandal, hoping to get stronger support from senators who are backing the incoming administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed that any senator who was willing may sponsor a resolution calling for a revival of the investigation of the alleged irregularities in the Pharmally contracts with the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) involving over P42 billion in pandemic response funds of the Department of Health.

‘Unfinished business’

Hontiveros agreed with Drilon, saying that “any unfinished business of the outgoing Congress may still be carried over to the next Congress.”

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“Perhaps just to pick up from where it left off. I will seek the advice of the leaders of the 19th Congress and my colleagues in the minority bloc on how to move it a step forward,” she said.

She said the findings of the blue ribbon committee under Sen. Richard Gordon should not be left hanging or archived.

Even at the last hour on the last session day of the current Senate, Hontiveros was optimistic that the blue ribbon’s partial committee report would get two more signatures from its 20 members to get a majority in order to transmit the report for plenary deliberations. It did not happen.

Duterte’s inclusion

The report was signed by Senators Gordon, Hontiveros, Panfilo Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Aquilino Pimentel III, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Drilon and Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

Those who did not sign the committee report were Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Imee Marcos, Juan Edgardo Angara, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Sherwin Gatchalian, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Christopher Go, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Francis Tolentino.

Zubiri said he withheld his signature as he questioned the inclusion of President Duterte among those found with criminal liability.

“I’ll be very honest about it, if only the name of President Duterte was not included there, I would have signed it,” he said, adding that he agreed with most of the report’s findings.

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Zubiri noted that the report implicating the President was based on circumstantial evidence and “guilt by association.”

He, however, erroneously cited Mr. Duterte as one of the people facing possible plunder charges, a nonbailable offense. The report found the President liable only for “betrayal of public trust,” which is an impeachable offense.

But Hontiveros vouched for the committee’s findings, which were based on evidence culled from 18 hearings from August 2021 to January this year, especially on overpriced pandemic supplies.

In September last year, she presented evidence on 11 contracts entered into by the PS-DBM, which purchased “overpriced” personal protective equipment (PPE) in April and May last year from various suppliers.

She said PPE commonly bought from local suppliers for only P1,000 apiece were bought by the PS-DBM from Chinese suppliers for as much as P2,000 each, leading to an estimated overprice of P1 billion.

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