In the latest Senate hearing on the Pharmally scandal this week, we learned more about the web of connections that enabled a cash-poor start-up with no track record to become, in just a year, the government’s biggest supplier of COVID-19 emergency supplies.
Thanks to documents presented and testimony during the hearing, we now know that a Chinese businessman, Lin Wei Xiong, was made the company’s financial manager to guarantee that President Duterte’s former economic adviser, Michael Yang, would be paid for the money he would lend the under-capitalized state-up.
Lin, a business associate of Yang, is the husband of congressional candidate Rose Nono Lin, who famously told the Senate Blue Ribbon community that she didn’t know how an P8-million Lexus LX450D ended up in her garage.
Pharmally chairman Huang Tzu Yen and Dargani told the Senate panel that Lin’s role as financial manager was to act as guarantor to suppliers on Michael Yang’s behalf.
“For the purpose of returning and safeguarding that guarantee that we will pay back once [a] collection is made, yes, he was appointed financial manager,” Huang said, referring to Lin.
Huang’s testimony contradicted Yang’s earlier claims that he was not involved in Pharmally, even as the company’s executives had said he acted as their financier and guarantor to suppliers.
From previous hearings, we also know that Pharmally was able to bag more than P8 billion in government contracts because these were approved by the a former undersecretary at the Department of Budget and Management, Lloyd Christopher Lao, who was put in that position by President Duterte in gratitude for service rendered as a volunteer lawyer during his 2016 presidential campaign. Lao, who characterized the hearings as “hostile,” has since refused to attend the hearings and has gone into hiding to avoid arrest for contempt.
Up to this point, nobody has said the President was involved in any of this corruption, but his links with Yang and Lao are, to say the least, embarrassing. So was his full-throated defense of his two “friends,” and his vicious, personal attacks on the senators behind the Senate investigation.
We are gratified that none of this has distracted the President from his crucial tasks of managing the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent damage caused by the super typhoon, but this “whiff of corruption” simply will not go away.
The stench, in fact, may waft into the 2022 elections, as voters steer clear of candidates who are too closely tied to a President who not only refused to do anything about the corruption in his own administration, but also defended those who are now caught–to borrow a phrase used by a senator during the hearings—in a train wreck of lying.