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)