No hostage taking, only refusal to cooperate; Senators blame Pharmally execs

Senators dismissed the claims of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executives that they were being held hostage during the Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the alleged anomalies that marred the multi-billion procurement of medical supplies for COVID response.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Risa Hontiveros said they were bound to follow the orders of the senators with regard to the inquiry. 

"To cooperate in the Senate means they should submit the documents subject of subpoena duces tecum or as asked by a senator," stressed Sotto.

He even recommended to the Pharmally executives to read the Philippine Constitution.

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by  Sen. Richard Gordon has ordered the arrest and detention in the Senate  of siblings Mohit and Twinkle Dargani who were declared in contempt of court for refusing to submit documents earlier subpoenaed by the committee.

Mohit is corporate secretary and treasurer of Pharmally while Twinkle sits as the company’s president.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms retired Major General Rene Samonte said the Darganis went missing after they were ordered arrested.

He said the Darganis were not found in any of their three condominium units as of Tuesday night although condo staff and security personnel have confirmed that they own the condominium units in BGC in Taguig and Greenhills in San Juan. 

Hontiveros was baffled why Pharmally executives could not be seen.

"First, Ms. (Krizie) Mago after she confirmed the tampering of face shields, now it's Mr. (Mohit) Dargani on overpricing," said Hontiveros while referring to the instance when Mago, another Pharmally executive, went missing after confirming that the face shields delivered to the Department of Health were tampered. 

With the many Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the issue, Hontiveros pointed out the documents being asked by the senators from them were yet to be completed.

"What we have been asking for are basic documentary records of their transactions. These are documents that they are required to maintain for tax purposes. So where are they?" she said.

If Pharmally cannot document the cost of goods sold, she said their  tax deficiency might reach several billion pesos.

Based on the evidence presented in the Senate, the senator said Pharmally should be audited by the Bureau of Internal Revenue

"Let me just remind Mr. Dargani that all resource persons in the hearings were under oath. If they are changing their statements or if there are discrepancies,  they are disrespecting the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Filipino people," she said.

"The Chairman is within his power to hold them in contempt, and I fully support the committee’s efforts to find the Dargani siblings," she added.

In a statement, Mohit said the Blue ribbon committee failed to treat them justly. 

Rather than impartially listening to them, he said the senators tried to get them to incriminate themselves.

"They want us detained because we asserted our rights, they can’t get what they want to hear from us. The President has nothing  to do with their transactions with PS-DBM. We are being falsely accused for political gain.”

 "They treat us like criminals whose lives aren’t worthy of living anymore.  We tried  our best to cooperate and respect them, but this was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards," added Mohit.

Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Senate Hearing on the Department of Energy's budget for 2022 became a venue for certain political interests.

"While the DOE recognizes the prerogative of the Committee to conduct its hearing in a manner that preserves the integrity and order of the proceedings, it is our view that the budget hearing may have been used unwittingly as a platform to advocate certain political interests," Cusi said in a letter to Senator Sherwin Gatchalian. 

He said the hearing was marred by issues raised by some members of the Senate that "sought to portray DOE as a perpetrator of fraud" in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market.

He said the accusations against DOE and other entities that accompanied Senator Manny Pacquiao's opening statement were "malicious" and inaccurate and were intended to malign.

During the hearing, Pacquiao asked  Melvin Matibag, the president of the National Transmission Corporation, on the involvement of the DOE with the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP), operator of the WESM where Matibag’s wife is reportedly one of the incorporators.

Both Cusi and Matibag are aligned with a PDP-Laban wing that ousted Pacquiao.

Pacquiao claimed during the hearing the DOE had given IEMOP the authority to be an “independent electricity stock market operator” which the senator claimed seems to be anomalous, since IEMOP did not meet the requirements set by the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001  

Matibag then talked back at Pacquiao, calling the inquiry a “political hearing” and said “let’s not pretend to be clean and untainted here,” while the senator was still in the process of presenting  his allegations.

Gatchalian, presiding over the hearing, then ordered the removal of Matibag in the virtual meeting. Matibag has since apologized but Gatchalian has prohibited him from attending the remaining hearing of the Committee on Finance (Subcommittee E).

Topics: Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation , COVID response , medical supplies
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