Ombudsman told: Get Pharmally scam brains
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called on the Ombudsman to go after the brains behind the anomalous purchase of P11.5 billion worth of COVID-19 supplies, even as she claimed as an “initial victory” the preventive suspension of 33 government personnel for their alleged involvement in the transactions with startup firm Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
At an online press briefing, Hontiveros said she felt vindicated that the antigraft body found that the evidence of guilt was strong against the 33, led by former chiefs of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
“My hope is that the investigation will also look into the masterminds behind this modus, well beyond the foot soldiers and mid-level officials,” she said.
READ: Ombudsman probe into Pharmally fiasco just the beginning — Hontiveros
Hontiveros made the statement after the Ombudsman ordered the suspension of 33 former and current government personnel, including its Deputy Overall Ombudsman and former PS-DBM Director Warren Rex Liong.
Also ordered suspended were former PS-DBM heads Lloyd Christopher Lao and Jasonmer Uayan, whose names figured prominently in the Pharmally investigations.
The suspension also included eight Department of Health (DOH) officers for their alleged participation in the supply contracts entered by the agency through fund transfers to PS-DBM of up to P42 billion.
The suspension order stemmed from a complaint filed by Hontiveros and former Sen. Richard Gordon, then chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee that conducted marathon hearings on the controversy.
They alleged grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, serious dishonesty and prejudicial conduct against the respondents over the purportedly anomalous procurement of 51,400 units of COVID-19 testing kits.
Gordon’s draft committee report endorsed plunder cases against then Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Lao, and Liong, as well as Pharmally executives led by its Singaporean president and chair Huang Tzu Yen and Filipino executives Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani and Krizle Grace Mago.
It also implicated a former economic adviser of then President Rodrigo Duterte, Davao-based Chinese businessman Michael Yang, as Pharmally’s alleged guarantor and financier.
READ: Ombudsman suspends 33 execs in Pharmally mess
In a statement, Gordon called the Ombudsman order a vindication for senators who signed the draft report.
The DOH on Thursday said it would cooperate with the Office of the Ombudsman in its investigation into several health officials over the alleged anomalous purchase of more than 51,000 COVID-19 testing kits from a startup company in the first year of the pandemic.
However, the DOH stressed that, along with the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, its role was “limited to providing technical inputs as end-users” in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies.
“While we commit to religiously comply with all procedures, the DOH vouches for the integrity of these officials, who have played significant roles in the country’s COVID-19 response,” the DOH said in a statement.
READ: DOH vouches for integrity of its officials included in Ombudsman suspension
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.