The House of Representatives has issued a subpoena against Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive Krizle Grace Mago to compel her presence in the investigation in aid of legislation being conducted by the lower chamber.
The House committee on good government and public accountability, chaired by Rep. Michael Aglipay, on Tuesday also asked Senator Richard Gordon to allow Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. director Linconn Ong to attend the panel’s inquiry.
Ong is under detention at the Senate for being evasive in answering questions about his company’s multibillion-peso contracts with the government.
This was as Ong revealed “vital information” related to former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang’s role in financing the small startup’s multi-billion-peso contracts with the government, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Tuesday.
In an interview over ANC’s Headstart, Lacson said there was already information shared by Ong as well as another executive from Singapore that former presidential adviser Michael Yang indeed lent money to Pharmally to purchase medicines from TigerPhil and other medical suppliers.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, meanwhile, said President Rodrigo Duterte should stop comparing the Senate inquiry to martial law interrogations, and instead explain the Lamborghinis, the Porches and other luxury cars bought by Pharmally executives.
Pangilinan said they should also explain the wasted half a billion pesos worth of substandard, expired Pharmally test kits and the grossly overpriced masks and face shields.
Duterte had drawn the comparison to martial law during his regular Talk to The People address on Monday when he accused senators of “intimidating” witnesses who appeared in the hearings.
“I thought people in the Philippines didn’t want martial law? Look at what they’re doing at the Senate now. It is just more than martial law. At least with martial law, you’d be brought to a military court or at least it’s a court,” the President said.
The Senate hearings have angered Duterte, as findings raised suspicions of conflict of interest and the failure of the government to apply due diligence in dealing with Pharmally.
The small firm had bagged at least P10 billion so far in government deals, getting the lion’s share of pandemic contracts awarded to a single firm.
In a statement sent to Senate media, Pharmally said Mago, who admitted under oath that her company had swindled the government, is not hiding, or missing.
Mago apologized for being unreachable after her testimony last week, saying she did not know what to do.
“I am feeling pressured for everything that’s happening in this investigation. But I want everyone to know that I was never threatened by anyone from Pharmally. Having worked with them for a long time, I know that they are good people,” she said.
Mago committed to do her best to continue to cooperate with the Senate investigation.
She was reported missing a day after her admission that her company had swindled the government by selling damaged medical-grade face shields with bogus production dates. The Senate asked the National Bureau of Investigation to find her.
The House good government panel directed Mago to testify under oath on October 4 via Zoom video conferencing or face arrest, according to the order signed by Aglipay of DIWA party-list and House Secretary General Mark Llandro Mendoza.
“Failure to comply with this order is subject to penalty under the law,” it added.
Aglipay also asked Gordon’s office to provide Pharmally’s Ong the facility and equipment to join and participate in the House inquiry.
Meanwhile. Lacson said he and Senate President Vicente Sotto earlier went down to the second floor of the Senate building where Ong is being detained and talked to him.
But while Ong had indicated he might want to say something in an executive session, he later backed off on the advice of his lawyer and refused to divulge anything more about Pharmally.
“I think the atmosphere has changed, the environment has changed, he hired a lawyer, who’s very arrogant, calling the senators names and calling the Senate names, and I don’t think it will help his (Ong’s) case,” Lacson said.
Lacson said even without the corroborative statement from Ong, they have sufficient evidence to conclude that Yang had something to do with the procurement of medical supplies by Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
He said the Senate was able to already extract testimony from him that is enough to indicate Yang’s role in the supply of pandemic response items to the government.
Ong is currently under the custody of the Senate after he was cited for contempt for evading questions.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee last week arrested Ong for being evasive in his answers, and for failing to submit several financial documents the panel subpoenaed.
Ong has repeated declined to reveal how much Pharmally had borrowed from Yang.
He was supposed to be transferred to Pasay City Jail last Friday but requested to speak before the committee in an executive session. His lawyer later denied this, and Ong has refused to speak in an executive session.
Lacson said Senate can hold Ong under its custody until it adjourns sine die or until the committee report has been approved.
“If he continues to be evasive, if he continues not to cooperate, then I would guess he will stay until New Year’s Eve in the Senate premises. It’s all up to him,” Lacson said.
Yang’s name first turned up in the Senate investigation after a 2017 video showed him introducing Pharmally officials to President Rodrigo Duterte in Davao City.
Yang has maintained he did not finance the Pharmally, insisting that his role was limited to introducing Ong to his friends among suppliers in China who could provide financial assistance.
Pharmally chairman and president Huang Tzu Yen, for his part, denied they were favored In any way in the government’s procurement of medical supplies in 2020, saying the small company has been “unfairly prejudged.”
At the same time, Lacson said the President has been grossly misinformed and was barking up the wrong tree when he attacked the new Senate building in Bonifacio Global City,
“He should have asked his own Department of Public Works and Highways, being the procuring and implementing agency of the project,” Lacson said.
He pointed out it was the DPWH that prepared the program Of works, the terms of reference and all bid documents, and conducted the bidding.
He also said the DPWH prepared and signed the contract and issued the notice to proceed, including the cost of the building.
“The Senate representative was only an observer during the bidding process,” he said.
In fact, Lacson related that after the notice of award was issued, Lacson said he took time to warn the contractor in the presence of some DPWH officials against giving any kickbacks to anyone and in whatever form, particularly on the construction of the new Senate building.