Senators chide Pharmally: Withholding documents means not cooperating with probe

Bella Perez-Rubio - Philstar.com
Senators chide Pharmally: Withholding documents means not cooperating with probe
Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. corporate secreatry Mohit Dargani attends a Seante Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on September 10, 2021.
Screen grab / Senate of the Philippines YouTube page

MANILA, Philippines — (Updated 4:19 p.m.) Senators on Friday reminded a Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive accusing them of mistreatment that it is the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's right to detain him for refusing to cooperate with its probe.

Pharmally corporate secretary Mohit Dargani was cited in contempt and ordered arrested along with his sister, Pharmally president Twinkle Dargani, by the panel on Tuesday after he again refused to submit documents subpoenaed by senators. Senate security has been unable to locate the siblings who were not in any of their three condominiums that night.

With his whereabouts still unknown, Dargani this morning released a statement to several media outlets, alleging that the Senate committee "failed to treat [them] justly" and is falsely accusing them "for political gain."

"We tried our best to cooperate and respect them, but this was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards," he said.

"Mr. Dargani, his sister, and all other resource persons invited to the Senate hearing have been treated fairly, as fairly as the circumstances warranted," Sen. Richard Gordon, Blue Ribbon chairman, said in response.

"As Mr. Dargani continued to refuse to give us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, he left the committee no choice but to use its rarely-used power to cite him for contempt — not to punish him, but to compel him to give us a complete picture of the issue being investigated."

While the Senate rarely invokes its contempt powers, Gordon said, the legislative exercise is recognized by the Constitution and approved by the Revised Penal Code as well as jurisprudence.

"Attending a Senate hearing can be easy and it can be hard," he added. "It is hardest when witnesses do not cooperate and do not give or share information necessary to our faithful performance of our tasks."

Senate President Vicente Sotto III in a message to reporters noted that "[t]o cooperate in the Senate means they should submit the documents subject of subpoena duces tecum or as asked by a senator."

"I fully support the committee’s efforts to find the Dargani siblings," Sen. Risa Hontiveros said in her own statement "When their stories keep changing and are inconsistent, they are disrespecting the [committee] and the Filipino people."

Dargani and his sister were given weeks to submit the source documents subpoenaed by the committee. Their arrest was ordered on Tuesday shortly after the accountant who prepared the firm's financial statement admitted that she never saw the source documents and was instead given a list to check.

His unwillingness to submit the documents, even after this revelation, was the final straw for members of the panel.

After his detention was ordered along with his sister's, Dargani left the room from which he was video conferencing and was not heard from again for the rest of the hearing.

"If he wants to clear the Darganis name, he and his sister should come forward and submit the pertinent documents we are asking from them," Gordon said.

"But while they continue to hide, people will believe they are as guilty of what they are accused of."

Another Pharmally executive, director Linconn Ong, has been detained in the Senate for weeks over his refusal to tell the committee how much money former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang lent the firm.

RELATED: Pharmally director runs to SC to challenge continuing detention at Senate

Hontiveros: Why hide 'basic' documents? 

"What we have been asking for are basic documentary records of their transactions," Hontiveros said. "These are documents that they are required to maintain for tax purposes. So where are they?" 

"If Pharmally can't document the cost of goods sold, their tax deficiency may be as much several billion pesos," she said, echoing the suspicions of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon who first sought a copy of the firm's source documents. 

"Based on the evidence filed in the [S]enate, they should be audited by the [Bureau of Internal Revenue]." 

'Another Pharmally executive missing following shock revelation'

Hontiveros also noted that this is the second time that a Pharmally executive cannot be found immediately after an anomalous practice was uncovered by her office. 

"First it was Ms. [Krizle Grace] Mago who confirmed a witness' testimony on the tampering of the face shields, now it's Mr. Dargani on overpricing." 

The senator bared Tuesday that Pharmally sold medical equipment to the Department of Transportation at prices higher than the ones listed in the firm's own catalog. This was confirmed by Ong and Dargani who claimed that the prices differed because they were volatile at the time. 

The Commission on Audit shortly after said this was a "red flag" that merited further investigation. 

Last month, after confirming shocking testimony on the repackaging of "substandard" face shields from a Pharmally warehouseman, Mago disappeared only to surface under House custody. Soon after, she disavowed her testimony at the Senate at a House hearing, saying it was a "pressured response." 

READ: Sotto: Pharmally exec's about-face doesn't erase testimony on face shields

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: November 29, 2021 - 9:47am

Follow this page for development on the government's allegedly overpriced pandemic response deals.

Photo credit: Screen grab from Senate of the Philippines YouTube page

November 29, 2021 - 9:47am

Pasay City jail is prepared for the transfer of Pharmally executives to its facility, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology says.

BJMP spokesperson says the prison does not have a separate facility except for the isolation area intended for newly committed persons deprived of liberty as part of health protocols.

"Walang special treatment. Walang preferential attention para sa kanila," BJMP spokesperson Xavier Solda says.

October 19, 2021 - 11:39am

Ahead of today's hearing, Health Secretary Francisco Duque tells the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that no officials from the DOH will able to attend.

Duque says this is because the memorandum barring them from attending hearing connected to the investigation is still in effect.

The DOH chief adds that President Rodrigo Duterte directed them to "give way to equally important COVID-19 response activities." — report from Bella Perez-Rubio


October 4, 2021 - 12:31pm

In a House hearing, Pharmally's Krizle Mago claims that her previous statement that the firm switched out the expiry dates of face shields sold to government was a "pressured response."

Senate President Tito Sotto, however, says they will leave it to the Ombudsman to assess later on.

"A statement made under oath incriminating oneself has more weight than a recantation," Sotto says. — Bella Perez-Rubio

October 1, 2021 - 7:00pm

House blue ribbon panel chair Mike Aglipay says that Pharmally executive Krizle Grace Mago has just been placed under protective custody of the chamber’s sgt-at-arms.

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