Duterte backs call for Ombudsman probe on Pharmally issue

Maris Federez   •   October 20, 2021   •   343

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte supports a call for the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation on the government’s alleged anomalous procurement of pandemic supplies.

The president was referring to the appeal of the Philippine College of Physicians for the Ombudsman to file appropriate cases against all those accountable in the controversial multibillion-peso deals between the government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

“We welcome the call of the Philippine College of Physicians that this matter should be immediately given to our courts and the Ombudsman. We have been saying this for the longest time and we all know that the Senate cannot prosecute. Mabuti pa ang mga doktor alam at naintindihan nila,” Duterte said.

“File cases is the right way to go. Stop using this issue in aid of election. Problema kasi sa Senate natin trying hard maghanap ng mga issue na may nangungurakot o kaya may nagkakapera,” he added.

The chief executive stated that, to date, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has yet to build a case out of the hearings it has conducted, pointing out that that the said government deal was consistent with Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act.

“And so we go back now to what has been established many times, walang overpricing […} legal ang naging proseso ng pagbili, according to what has been provided by Bayanihan 1. Na-deliver lahat at binayaran nang pagkatapos na-deliver,” the president insisted.

Duterte also dared the Senate to bring the matter to the proper courts.

“And if you think that you have identified companies with tax issues, then file the appropriate cases. Matagal na naman namin sinasabi, kasuhan niyo ang mga dapat kasuhan. Lahat naman talaga dapat magbayad ng buwis at kung kailangan magbayad, singilan para magbayad iyong may mga atraso sa gobyerno kagaya ni Senator Gordon,” Duterte said.

“Eh you call my memorandum ‘stupid?’ Well, I challenge you: bring your arguments to the proper court and I will answer you,” he further stated.

The president also slammed Senator Richard Gordon for threatening to cut the budget of the executive department if the officials will not attend the Blue Ribbon’s hearings, calling it a blatant abuse of power.

“You threaten the budget of different agencies of the Executive because the officials refuse to attend to your hearings. Ito ‘yung mga pang-abuso talaga itong masabi ko sa gobyerno — sa gobyerno ‘pag ka demokrasya, itong separation of powers, co-equal and everything; and they threatened to paralyze government,” Duterte said.

“I challenge you, do it. ‘Pag ka ‘yung mga hearing reduce the budget by one third, hinahamon ko kayo, gawain ninyo ‘yan,” he added. —/mbmf

Pharmally employee files sedition complaint vs. Hontiveros before Ombudsman

Maris Federez   •   November 3, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — An employee of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation has filed a sedition complaint against Senator Risa Hontiveros and her staff before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The complaint was filed by Jaime Vegas, a colleague of Veejay Almira who stood as Hontiveros’ witness in the previous hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee against the beleaguered company.

On Wednesday (November 3), Almira faced the members of the media and retracted his earlier statements during a September 24 Blue Ribbon hearing wherein he talked about the alleged substandard medical supplies, as well as the tampering of expiration dates in the label of face shields that the government procured from Pharmally.

In the media conference, Almira claimed that he only asked for help through the lawmaker’s Facebook page. But upon learning that he works at Pharmally, Hontiveros’ staff purportedly asked for pictures and videos of their warehouse.

“Wala po akong intensyon na siraan ang aking kumpanya na aking pinapasukan, ginawa ko po yun dahil nangako sila ng tulong sa’king anak […] Akala ko lehitimong pagtulong lang ang ginagawa nila pero yun pala gusto lang nila akong gawing testigo para siraan ang ano ng gobyerno,” Almira said.

He also claimed that to receive Hontiveros financial assistance, he was instructed by Atty. Jay Bekema of the senator’s legal team to sign a sworn statement that says the face shields supplied by Pharmally were already expired.

“Sa donasyon po ni Sen. Risa Hontiveros ay inutusan po ako ni Atty. Jay para pumirma ng sinumpaang salaysay sabihin na expired ang face shields ng Pharmally,” Almira said.

“Lahat din po ng sinasabi ko sa video ay tinuturo sa’kin nina attorney po. Ayun din po kasi yung pinag-uutos galing sa opisina ni Sen. Hontiveros,” he added.

Vegas said that he filed conspiracy to commit sedition, sedition, perjury, offering false witnesses, and violation of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees against the lawmaker and her staff before the Ombudsman.

Hontiveros, however, denied the allegation.

The senator presented screenshots of Almira’s messages on Facebook since September 3 proving that it was him who approached them first.

Hontiveros also said Almira had been sending them messages even on email regarding pieces of information on their anomalous activities in Pharmally.

It was also Almira who offered to do a video recording to refute claims that Hontiveros paid him to stand as her witness.

“Wala siyang hiningi at lalong wala kaming inoffer na kapalit. Pagkatapos niyang i-tape yung video na ipinakita ko sa Blue Ribbon hearing […] May insidenteng natakot siya. Pinakita ko rin sa Blue Ribbon noon na may dalawang lalaking nakamotor na sila ang nag-aalok ng pera sa isang kaibigan ni Veejay para ituro daw ang kanyang bahay. Humingi siya ng office ko na makalikas sa kanyang tahanan. At siya rin ang humingi ng assistance para panggastos sa lilipatan nila,” Hontiveros said.

“Walang-walang bribery on the part of anyone in my office, or my whole office with regards Jayvee, klarong-klaro po ‘yun,” the lawmaker added.

Atty. Bekema, on the other hand, admitted giving financial assistance to Almira which was purportedly for his sick child. He, however, denied that the assistance amounted to Php20,000.

“May mga hiningi na hindi namin naibigay, inaamin ko po na nagbigay ako pero personal via Gcash. Pero di totoo yung 20k… 1,500, 2k pati toys. But it is humanitarian. Labas po ito sa office, after na ito ng pagtestify niya,” Bekema explained.

Hontiveros believes that this turn of events was politically motivated and aimed at steering the public’s attention away from the investigation.

“Talagang nakakatawa yung charge ng sedition,” Hontiveros said. “Yung pagtanggap ng impormasyon mula sa concerned citizens para singilin yung accountability ng public officials sa graft and corruption, that is hardly, that’s not at all inciting to sedition.”

“Patunay lang na they feel the need to try to divert the attention not only the committee at ng Senado but ng publiko sa mga krimen na ginagawa nila,” Hontiveros asserted. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Senate fails to serve arrest order vs Dargani siblings

Maris Federez   •   October 27, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms still has not served the arrest order against siblings Mohit and Twinkle Dargani, executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

According to retired General Rene Samonte, Senate personnel once again went to the addresses provided by the Darganis and an informant, but the siblings were nowhere to be found.

Mohit Dargani had earlier issued a statement claiming that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee failed to be  impartial in treating them during the hearing that they attended.

He also accused the Senate panel of using the hearing for political gains as election season nears.

Meanwhile, the Blue Ribbon has issued a subpoena against Pharmally chief accountant Jeff Mariano.

This was after Pharmally’s external auditor, Illuminada Sebial, said in a previous hearing that the company has stopped providing her copies of its sales report that was also subpoenaed by the Committee.

The Blue Ribbon is set to conduct its 13th hearing of the case on Thursday, October 28. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Pharmally on Blue Ribbon hearing: ‘They treat us like criminals’

Maris Federez   •   October 22, 2021


MANILA, Philippines [UPDATE] — The Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation on Friday issued a statement regarding the heavy scrutiny it is going through over its alleged questionable deals with the government on the procurement of pandemic supplies.

In a statement released to media, Pharmally corporate-secretary Mohit Dargani said that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has not been impartial in the way it handled the hearing on the said allegation.

“The Blue ribbon failed to treat us justly. Rather than impartially listening to us, they tried to get us to incriminate ourselves. They want us detained because we asserted our rights, they can’t get what they want to hear from us,” Dargani said.

Dargani also refuted claims that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in their deal with the government in supplying the country with face masks and face shields as part of the efforts to address the pandemic.

“Walang kinalaman ang Presidente sa transactions namin with PS-DBM (Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management),” Dargani said.

Dargani further slammed the committee for what he claimed as false accusations.

“We are being falsely accused for political gain. Malapit na eleksyon and we are like hostages. Hindi na para sa bayan. But for their political survival,” the Pharmally official said.

“They treat us like criminals whose lives aren’t worthy of living anymore,” he added.

Dargani further said that Pharmally has been cooperating with the committee out of respect to them, but this, he stressed, “was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards.”

Conversely, Senator Riza Hontiveros issued her reaction to Dargani’s statement.

Hontiveros insists that Pharmally has yet to complete the documents that the Senators in the Blue Ribbon have been asking from the pharmaceutical company since the start of the committee hearing.

“Let me just remind Mr. Dargani, lahat ng resource persons sa mga hearing ay under oath. Kapag pabago-bago at hindi nagtutugma ang mga kwento nila, 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.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III also reacted to Dargani, saying, “to cooperate in the Senate means they should submit the documents subject of subpoena duces tecum or as asked by a senator. I suggest they read the PH Constitution!” —/mbmf


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