Pharmally employee files sedition complaint vs. Hontiveros before Ombudsman

Maris Federez   •   November 3, 2021   •   762

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)

Dargani, Ong to be transferred to Pasay City Jail

Maris Federez   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III has signed the commitment order for the transfer of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation director Linconn Ong and corporate secretary and treasurer Mohit Dargani to the Pasay City Jail.

The order states that the two executives will be placed under the custody of the Pasay City Jail until they answer the questions of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and submit the documents asked from them by the panel.

At last Friday’s hearing, Dargani said that he no longer has any knowledge on the whereabouts of the boxes containing Pharmally documents since he left for the United States in August. He, however, expressed his willingness to search for the said documents.

Ong and Pharmally’s former Regulatory Affairs Head Krizle Mago also denied knowledge about the said boxes.

“We don’t know where the boxes are, precisely because our house boxes, office boxes, everything is mixed. I want to go back and see what’s happening also,” Dargani said.

However, Senate Sergeant At Arms chief Retired Major General Rene Samonte, in a text message, reported to Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Richard Gordon that his team was not able to launch the search for the boxes due to Dargani’s refusal to give the needed information.

“Hindi nakaalis kasi ayaw magbigay ng info kung saan pupunta, hindi daw nya alam kung nasaan — office or warehouse or residence. He was told that they can go to all three, pero ayaw pa din,” Samonte’s text message read.

He added that Mohit claimed not knowing whether the said boxes are at the Pharmally head office, in a warehouse, or at their residence.

Samonte also said that Dargani pointed to one of Pharmally’s legal counsel, Attorney Don Kapunan, as the one who knows about the documents.

The Senate official added that he had the Pharmally counsel called up and made the query, in which the lawyer denied any knowledge about the said boxes of documents.

“Ang sabi ni Mohit ay alam daw ni Atty. Kapunan, kaya pinatawagan ko. Muntik na daw mahulog ang lawyer sa upuan, kasi wala daw kaalam alam si Atty. Kapunan kung ano man ang mga documents na yun,” Samonte’s message further read.

“It seems wala talagang boxes and boxes of documents, or ayaw ilabas kung meron man. I recommend ituloy na ang transfer order asap. I will see and talk to them pag may commitment order na to Pasay City Jail,” it continued.

Mohit’s sister, Pharmally president Twinkle Dargani, on the other hand, will stay under the Senate’s custody. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Michael Yang petition before SC, a desperate move — Gordon

Maris Federez   •   November 26, 2021

 

MANILA, Philippines — Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Richard Gordon believes that the decision of former presidential economic adviser, Michael Yang to file a petition before the Supreme Court is a desperate move following the arrest of some officials of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

In a statement released Friday (November 26), Gordon said Yang had been caught lying several times in front of the lawmakers in the committee hearings, and that he is now afraid to go out after the arrest of Pharmally executives Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani, and Twinkle Dargani.

“Maraming beses nang nagsinungaling si Michael Yang sa Senado. Lumalabas na siya’y takot ngayon lumabas ng kanyang tahanan matapos mahuli ang mga kasamahan sa negosyong sina Linconn Ong, at magkapatid na Mojit at Twinkle Dargani,” Gordon said.

The senator also said that Yang’s move is out of desperation to circumvent Blue Ribbon’s investigation on the questionable government procurement of medical supplies from Pharmally.

“Ang pagsampa niya ng kaso sa Korte Suprema ay bahagi ng desperadong tangkang pagpapa-ikot sa Senate Blue Ribbon Committee sa isinasagawa nitong imbestigasyon sa katiwaliang naganap sa gitna ng pandemya,” he said.

Gordon insists that the Blue Ribbon only defends the rights of Filipinos which weigh far greater than the privilege enjoyed by foreigners who live in lies.

“Ipinagtatanggol ng Komite ang karapatan ng mga taumbayan, na higit mas matimbang kaysa sa pribilehiyo ng isang banyagang nabubuhay sa kasinungalingan,” Gordon said.

Yang’s lawyer, Atty. Raymond Fortun earlier said his client will attend the Blue Ribbon Committee’s 15th hearing on the Pharmally issue.

However, Fortun said that Yang wasn’t able to attend the hearing due to an illness. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Lao asks Blue Ribbon to withdraw arrest order

Maris Federez   •   November 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Former Department of Budget and Management Usec. Lloyd Christopher Lao has asked the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to withdraw its contempt and arrest order against him.

In a letter dated November 11, 2021, addressed to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon, Lao said he had been actively attending the committee hearings from August 25 to September 30.

He added that he had been truthful in answering the questions thrown at him, with the intention of providing information on the procurements of medical supplies made by the government amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He, however, lamented the insults and judgments that were cast on him and the way he was treated during the hearings as if he were a criminal devoid of rights.

He claimed to feel that the hearings have turned into a trial instead of just laying down queries in aid of legislation.

Lao further said that he never disrespected the Senate and that he is ready to testify if the committee will change the way it treats him.

Senator Gordon, on the other hand, said in a statement that it was Lao’s non-attendance in the four consecutive hearings that prompted the committee to cite him in contempt.

He said Lao’s non-appearance showed his disrespect to the Senate processes.

“After the citation and an Order of Arrest had been duly issued, you have made yourself even more scarce, exhibiting your lack of respect for legal processes of a duly- constituted authority,” Gordon said.

The lawmaker also insisted that if it is his wish to have the contempt and arrest order against him withdrawn, Lao must submit himself before the Senate Sergeant at Arms the soonest time possible.

“If it is your wish that the Committee acts on your Motion, we suggest that you submit yourself to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms first at the soonest possible time,” Gordon said.

“In the meantime, the Order of Arrest will continue to subsist and the search for your person will not cease until the Sergeant-at-Arms is able to take you into custody,” he added.

To date, the Senate security team continues searching for Lao to have him under Upper Chamber’s custody.

The Blue Ribbon will conduct the 15th hearing on the issue on Friday, November 26. —/mbmf (from the report of UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)v

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