Officials of the small pharmaceutical company that bagged P8.5 billion in government contracts for COVID-19 pandemic supplies rewarded themselves by buying luxury cars, Senator Richard Gordon said Friday.
Mohit Dargani, corporate secretary of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., bought a Porsche 911 Turbo S worth P8.5 million, Gordon said, while the company’s president, Twinkle Dargani, purchased a Lamborghini Urus worth P13 million.
The cars, Gordon said, were bought in December 2020 after Pharmally bagged the contract in April of the same year.
Gordon also divulged that Linconn Ong, director of Pharmally, acquired a Lexus RCF worth P5.9 million, a Porsche Cayenne VR6 worth P6.35 million to P8.85 million, and a Porsche Carrera 4S worth P13.5 million.
While the Pharmally officials attended Friday’s hearing, they did not address Gordon’s revelations.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee already requested the Anti-Money Laundering Council to inspect the bank records of Pharmally as lawmakers questioned how the firm bagged government contracts worth billions of pesos, with only a paid up capital of P650,000.
At Friday’s meeting, Senator Risa Hontiveros asked Pharmally’s incorporator Krizle Mago who ordered the delivery of 2 million face masks to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) even before the company received a request for quotation or a notice of award.
Mago told the 7th hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Gordon that her “boss” ordered her to deliver the goods, which surprised even the PS-DBM.
Pressed to reveal who she was referring to, Mago pointed to Dargani and Ong.
Hontiveros said the only logical conclusion she could draw was that someone had underhandedly guaranteed the contract for them, even before any documentation was done.
“They sent 2 million face masks even before they were given the price. The price of masks in the first quarter of 2020 was very volatile," she said.
In the most recent hearing on the mismanaged COVID-19 funds, the senator showed a message exchange between Mago and a former employee of the PS-DBM, in which Mago asked if the PS-DBM employee was aware that Pharmally delivered 2 million surgical masks.
Hontiveros said the correct process for an emergency procurement would be issuance of a request for proposals, opening of proposals, evaluation, negotiation (e.g. terms of delivery), issuance of resolution recommending the award, issuance of the notice of award, and then the purchase order.
“In the case of Pharmally, the 500,000 mask delivery came first before the notice of award and the purchase order. And then, the million pieces of surgical masks--no notice of award, no purchase order, and no request for quotation,” Hontiveros said.
Meanwhile, Gordon on Friday hit back at President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been trying to stop the Senate hearing on Pharmally.
Duterte, Gordon said, was no longer the President of the Philippines, but a lawyer for his allies tagged in the alleged overpriced procurement of medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the President took his oath to protect the entire Philippines and defend his countrymen, Gordon said Duterte is now lawyering for his “close friends” being investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.
“Why are you defending Lao? While he was with you during the campaign, while you owe him a debt of gratitude, this should not be replaced by graft or give him a license to steal,” Gordon said, referring to former DBM undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, who was Duterte's volunteer election lawyer when he ran for president in 2016. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
When Duterte became President, Lao was appointed to the Presidential Management Staff in Malacanang before his designation at the DBM. He then resigned from the DBM and applied as deputy ombudsman, an application he later withdrew.
Gordon said he has also been baffled why the President is acting as lawyer for his former economic adviser Michael Yang, who was earlier linked to the illegal drug trade.
"Why defend Yang? He can defend himself. He is a billionaire," Gordon said.
"The truth [teller], Mr. President, does not mind being questioned. It's the liars who really mind being questioned. They don't want to be faced with challenging questions," Gordon said.
"They can't answer because it's Attorney Duterte who's answering for them. Attorney is now acting as their lawyer, he's no longer the president of the country," he added.
Linconn Ong confirmed before Gordon’s panel that Yang acted as the "middleman and guarantor" between Pharmally and four Chinese suppliers in China where they sourced their medical supplies sold to the DOH through the PS-DBM, then under Lao.
After the Gordon panel issued a warrant of arrest against Yang, he testified before the committee hearing and denied any involvement in the operations of Pharmally.
Despite a paid-up capital of only P625,000, Pharmally got the biggest contract of medical supplies to DOH.
Yang Introduced Pharmally officials to the President, who is his close friend.
Responding to the President's attacks on the Commission on Audit, which flagged the DOH, Gordon said Duterte is "not a president the Filipino people can respect."
He said it is difficult to respect Duterte because he does “not act like a president.”
"Nobody talks to you in international conferences because your reputation of being rude, brash and advocating for ‘kill, kill, kill’ precedes you," Gordon told Duterte.
"Today I tell you, you are not a president the Filipino people can respect," said Gordon, who said he did not vote for him, but Senator Grace Poe in 2016.
Gordon, who has been the subject of Duterte's personal attacks, said he would not support a President who cursed the Pope, who cursed God and told law enforcers that if they catch an NPA amazon, they have to shoot her in the vagina.
In his latest tirades, Duterte called Gordon a "despot"and said he would let a vampire suck his blood. He also ridiculed him for his "strange hairstyle" and asked him to get slimmer as he feels dizzy every time he sees him.
Gordon said he pities the President, whom he branded a "cheap politician."
At the start or the 7th hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, Gordon said they are not bullying resource persons, as Duterte accused them of doing. He maintained they merely wanted to ferret out the truth in the findings of COA.
"This is not an inquisition of sorts as what the President of the Philippines has been saying,” he said.
The Senate probe on the President’s allies triggered the attacks coming from the Chief Executive who even threatened to bar his Cabinet secretaries from attending the proceedings.