There was a time when President Duterte, addressing those in his government that were corrupt, would say, “Just stop it.”
It is time for him to heed his own advice, when it comes to attacking the Senate for uncovering corrupt practices in the government’s procurement of emergency medical supplies during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Contrary to what he or his advisers may think, he is scoring no points for digging up a two-decades- old allegation against Senator Richard Gordon, the chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that is investigating the questionable purchases of pandemic supplies by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM). He looked even worse when he said he would ask the Office of the Ombudsman to look into it—a threat to use government resources to go after his political enemies.
He also came across as petty and petulant when he took cheap shots at Gordon’s heft and Senator Panfilo Lacson’s hairstyle.
Finally, the President scored no points for loyalty when he admitted to appointing Lloyd Christopher Lao, a volunteer election lawyer during Mr. Duterte’s 2016 presidential campaign, to head the PS-DBM out of a sense of gratitude. It was Mr. Lao who later bought P8 billion worth of overpriced face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPE) from a small startup, Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., which was backed by the President’s friend and one-time economic adviser, Michael Yang, a Chinese businessman from Davao City.
Now, thanks to the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings, we have learned that not only were the goods sold by Pharmally overpriced, some of them had been tampered with to change the production dates to meet government requirements. Pharmally, we are learning, not only gouged the Filipino people, they swindled us by selling us shoddy goods.
With their unspeakable profits, executives of this company bought themselves a Lamborghini, Porches, and a Lexus sports utility vehicle—all while tens of thousands of poor Filipinos lined up to collect cash aid from the government during the pandemic.
A legitimate company would surely have reinvested their profits and plowed them back into the business, especially if it was under-capitalized, as Pharmally was. Instead, they bought luxury cars.
Against all that we are now learning, it is heartbreaking to hear the President of this nation defend his friends in Pharmally and his one-time election lawyer. After all, he owes his loyalty first to the Filipino people, not his Davao pals. Mr. President, just stop it.