The legal counsel of former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang said Sunday senators were confusing Yang’s meeting at the Palace in 2017 and the government supply procurement in 2020.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating Yang and others, previously showed a 2017 photo of the former adviser and President Rodrigo Duterte having a meeting with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. officials linked to the purchase of reportedly overpriced medical equipment for COVID-19 response.
But Raymund Fortun, Yang’s lawyer, said the Chinese businessman was meeting up with Pharmally Biological Inc. in 2017, which is different from the 2020 pandemic supply procurement.
Fortun said over Dobol B TV, “They are having confusion because they are linking the 2017 incident from the negotiation of pandemic supplies. Those are different events.”
He also called as “disheartening” the senators he did not name who allegedly made fun of Yang’s language problem during the Senate investigation into the use of COVID-19 funds.
Fortun explained that Yang, a Chinese businessman, could only understand Filipino but could not speak the language.
“Yang has been in the Philippines for 22 years. For sure he picked up some Tagalog words. Probably if you went to Iloilo that long, you would be able to understand small words,” Fortun said.
He added: “The problem is the Senate is laughing at him which is very disheartening from very intelligent individuals that just because you live in the Philippines, automatically, you can speak their language.”
Nevertheless, Fortun said Yang would continue to cooperate in the Senate hearing on the Department of Health’s use of COVID-19 funds, which also includes the government’s purchase of COVID-19 supplies through Pharmally and the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
Yang will also attend the continuation of the Senate probe today, Sept. 13, Fortun added.
During the Senate hearing, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Pharmally Biological Inc., was a sister company of Pharmally Pharmaceutical.
Hontiveros moved to issue a subpoena against Rose Nono Lin, the incorporator of Pharmally Biological. Her motion was also approved by the Senate committee.
Yang’s camp denied allegations it had links to Pharmally. There was no immediately available comment from any of the senators.
But in response to Fortun’s claims, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he could not remember senators making fun of Yang.
“Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember any senator making fun of Michael Yang, much less his language problem,” Lacson said in a text message to GMA News Online.
“As far as I am concerned, I propounded to ask my questions as direct to the point as possible,” he added.
Lacson said it was Yang who was evasive on Senate’s questions.
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said there was no reason yet to invite President Rodrigo Duterte to a Senate investigation on the government’s procurement of allegedly overpriced COVID-19 medical supplies.
In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, Drilon was asked if Duterte would be invited to the Senate probe after the Chief Executive defended Pharmally.
“For now, we are not seeing any reason to invite the President. I am not seeing enough reason to summon him,” he said.
In a related development, Vice President Leni Robredo said the government’s P8.68-billion contract with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. for medical supplies was nine times higher than the Office of the Vice President’s 2021 budget.
During her weekly radio program, the Vice President said in 2021, the OVP’s budget was at P908.79 million, adding part of it was used to help in the government’s COVID-19 response.
“The awarding of the contract is shocking. The biggest… it is almost nine times the budget of the whole Office of the Vice President,” she said.
“That is just an initial. There are more to that… worth more than P2 billion this year,” Robredo added.
“What is the worst corruption when people have been dying. Why is it like this? There are too many people getting hungry, too many have lost their jobs, then this is only what you see,” the Vice President lamented.