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Pharmally employee admits face shield tampering

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Pharmally employee admits face shield tampering
Dargani and Mago
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — A former warehouse worker testified yesterday before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee that he and fellow workers were asked by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to tamper with the labels of old and substandard face shields meant for medical workers procured by the government to make it appear they were manufactured recently.

This developed as senators expressed alarm over apparent attempts at cover up at the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management as several critical documents uploaded by the PS-DBM to its Google Drive – representing some P5 billion worth of transactions – for review of the committee went missing from the account the same day it was uploaded on Sept. 10.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros presented a video of the interview taken under oath with the unidentified male witness, who was wearing a red hoodie and sunglasses, at the resumption of inquiry into the alleged anomalies in the purchase of COVID-19 supplies amounting to P42 billion using funds from the Department of Health (DOH).

The witness said the warehouse has a “front name” of LB2 warehouse but was really operated by Pharmally, which has delivered face shields and other pandemic supplies to the yet undisclosed storage facility.

“The face shields were delivered to the warehouse. What we do is repack them, we remove the certificates that they’re expired and replace them with new certificates with the present year (2021), from the expired year of 2020,” the witness said in Filipino in the video.

“Even if the face shields were creased, yellowing or dirty, we were asked to repack them… we weren’t provided with gloves,” he said. The witness is no longer with the company.

He said he was ordered by Krizle Grace Mago, an officer of Pharmally, to do the tampering, which happened sometime last month.

He said some of the face shields were labelled “for kitchen” but Mago asked that they be separated and considered rejects. They were also asked to put labels “Philippine Government Property” and “DOH” on the face shields.

The witness also said he once saw Mohit Dargani, one of the owners of Pharmally, visit the warehouse.

He said he reached out to the committee after hearing news of alleged anomalies in the procurement of COVID-19 supplies.

‘Swindle’

Upon questioning, Mago admitted to ordering the replacement of labels but that it was upon the instructions of Dargani.

“That (order) is something I cannot deny,” she said.

When asked by Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the committee, that tampering the face shields meant the company has “swindled” the government, Mago replied: “I believe that is the case.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan asked the Senate to provide Mago with protection to allow her to testify freely as members of the panel believe that she was just used by owners of Pharmally.

“I see that you’re a good lady… they tried to make your hands dirty,” Gordon told Mago, even as he warned her that if she does not cooperate she would likely be included in the committee report recommending the filing of various criminal charges against those allegedly involved in corruption.

Pangilinan impressed upon Mago that many medical and health workers have died of COVID-19 that may be attributed to substandard protective gear.

Mago also admitted that she was nominated “for convenience” to be an officer of another company, Business Beyond Limits, which apparently bagged another supply contract with PS-DBM.

She said she was willing to cooperate with the inquiry but asked for time to think of the offer of protection because of the tight situation she was in.

Dargani denied giving such orders and said he was willing to face the witness “head on.”

‘Make a killing’

Linconn Ong, part owner of Pharmally, was transferred last night to the Pasay City Jail by the Senate sergeant-at-arms for continuing to be evasive.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon have been pressing Ong to disclose how Pharmally was able to finance the importation of supplies when it only had a capitalization of P625,000. They were also asking him how much former presidential adviser Michael Yang lent the company.

Lacson said most prudent businessmen would reinvest the initial profits they gain but Dargani, Ong and other Pharmally owners instead bought luxury SUVs and sports cars after just one contract with PS-DBM.

“You were all prepared to make a killing,” Lacson told Ong, who denied having any contact at the PS-DBM.

Lacson pointed out that in less than three hours after meeting with then PS-DBM head Lloyd Christopher Lao on March 24 last year, Ong was able to deliver tens of thousands of face masks to the agency without any documentation at all.

The paperwork for the first and subsequent deliveries from Pharmally came several days after, the senator said.

He said Pharmally covered one-fourth or 26.39 percent of the P42-billion DOH allocation for COVID-19 supplies.

Related video:

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