Witness not paid, info 'vetted for weeks', Hontiveros says of Pharmally claim of bribery

Witness not paid, info 'vetted for weeks', Hontiveros says of Pharmally claim of bribery
A warehouse worker for Pharmally testifies at the Senate on September 24, 2021.
Screen grab / Senate of the Philippines YouTube page

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday refuted Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.'s allegation that a lawyer from her office bribed one of the firm's warehouse workers to give "false" testimony at a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last week. 

The Senate witness claimed that warehouse workers of Pharmally, which supplied the government with personal protective equipment, were instructed to tamper with the expiry dates of medical-grade face shields. He also said that they were told to repackage face shields that were "substandard."

Pharmally executive Krizle Grace Mago shortly after confirmed the practice, even telling senators she believed that the firm was swindling the government. 

But the controversial firm, in a statement published by DZBB Super Radyo, claimed that the warehouse worker cooperating with the Senate was bribed by a lawyer from Hontiveros' office.

In its statement, Pharmally cited a video played by Linconn Ong's lawyer at a press conference earlier Wednesday, showing another warehouse worker alleging that the Senate witness, whom he claimed was his co-worker "V-Jay," was bribed by Hontiveros' lawyer and paid through her driver.  

Contesting these allegations, Hontiveros said that it was Pharmally's warehouse worker who first reached out to the Senate.

"We have an e-mail thread to prove this," she said in a statement written partially in FIilipino. "Like always, I have receipts." 

"We vetted the information of the witness for weeks and obtained independent corroboration of his points," the senator added, noting that Mago soon after corroborated the witness' testimony as well. 

"That is unrehearsed testimony [from Mago.] It is on the record.  Kaya huwag na silang magtangkang ilihis pa ang usapan (So they shouldn't bother trying to derail the conversation)." 

She also chided Linconn Ong's newly-hired lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, who has been publicly assailing the Senate this week, calling it a "kangaroo forum" and accusing it of abusing its contempt powers. 

Topacio also advised Ong, who is currently in the Senate's custody after being cited in contempt multiple times for evading questions, to back out of an executive session on Monday.

He has twice threatened to file cases against senators, most recently saying he would file one against Hontiveros for the alleged bribing of a witness. 

'Senate has no track record of tampering with witnesses'

"We do not have any track record of witness tampering and witness bribery. We take care of all our witnesses and whistleblowers," Hontiveros said. "[F]rom Ivy, the Taiwanese victim of POGO’s illegal recruitment, to Alex Chiong and Dale Ignacio."

Chiong and Ignacio were key witnesses in the Senate's probe on bribery schemes at the Bureau of Immigration. 

"That is why the witnesses first approach my office. I have the courage to confront the abusive and powerful because our witnesses also have full confidence in me," she added. "We do not disappoint them." 

"While Atty. Topacio, in 2017, I remember him rushing to my office to pick up the minor witnesses to the murder of Kian De Los Santos. He did not succeed because it is really not in his blood to advance truth and justice."

In a privilege speech in 2017, Hontiveros narrated these same events, saying Topacio, who was then with the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, tried to use one witness' father to pick them up even though her office had obtained consent letters from their parents.  

Hontiveros said she would not back down from any case filed against her. "We are ready to face, answer and prove that we don’t have to pay for the truth."

"Hopefully, they are also willing to answer allegations without hiding behind lies," she added. "Atty. Topacio, you cannot fool the people. Not today." 

"Like the face shields sold by Pharmally, your script is old, dirtied and expired." — Bella Perez-Rubio 

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