The chairman of the Commission on Audit (COA) said Friday he supports the abolition of the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) as senators moved for the arrest of former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang and Pharmally Pharmaceuticals executive Lincoln Ong for evading questions on allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment.
At the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the COVID-19 spending by the Department of Health, COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said he would support measures to abolish the two organizations that are supposed to procure common-use supplies in bulk for various government agencies.
He said he was willing to provide suggestions on how common use supplies could be procured without opening them to possible corruption.
Senator Imee Marcos recently filed two bills seeking the abolition of the PITC and the PS-DBM due to the alleged “systemic corruption” in the said agencies.
Meanwhile, testifying with an interpreter, Yang denied reports that he was involved in the PS-DBM contract with Pharmally, a small company that bagged an P8 billion contract to supply face masks, face shields and PPE. He also said he has had no contact with the President since 2017.
But Senator Francis Pangilinan said Yang acted as the guarantor of Pharmally for the medical equipment it bought from China-based suppliers and sold to the Philippine government.
Yang also guaranteed the Philippine government would pay Pharmally for the COVID-19 medical supplies, Pangilinan said.
Ong also said Yang acted as the middle man in the multi-billion-peso contract between the company and the PS-DBM.
Ong said if the amount involved was huge, Yang would guarantee for Pharmally.
Senators are investigating how a small company like Pharmally was able to land such a huge contract to supply face masks, face shields and PPE.
But Yang said he had nothing to do with Pharmally and its operations.
“Mr. chairman, Mr. Yang said he doesn’t know and he has no relation to Pharmally,” Yang’s interpreter told the Senate panel.
The interpreter said Yang merely introduced Ong to the Chinese suppliers and it was Ong who talked and negotiated with them.
"He only introduced [them] and let them discuss things on their own," Yang said.
Lacson moved for the issuance of an arrest warrant against Yang and Ong, which Senator Risa Hontiveros seconded.
Meanwhile, Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon instructed the Anti-Money Laundering Council to review financial transactions of Pharmally to establish money trail.
Pharmally's 2020 financial statement showed it only had P599,450 in capital and had no importation license but still managed to procure some 2.4 million face masks amounting to P54 million for the PS-DBM.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III supported Gordon's request for the AMLC to review Pharmally's transactions.
Gordon also granted Hontiveros' request to subpoena from the Bureau of Immigration the "entry and exit information" of Huang Tzu Yen and his father, Huang Wen Lie, who is wanted in Taiwan for fraud.
The Huang patriarch met with President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City in 2017, but the "last official record of his entry is 2005," Hontiveros said.
"That creates another mystery," said Hontiveros, who also rejected Yang's claim he lost contact of President since 2017.