Duterte ignores Senate panel's Pharmally probe report

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte ignores Senate panel's Pharmally probe report
Pharmally director Linconn Ong in a September 24, 2021, Senate blue ribbon hearing confirms the validity of a photo that shows him meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte and his former economic adviser Michael Yang. Ong used to work as Yang's translator.
Screen grab / Senate of the Philippines YouTube page

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte brushed aside the Senate Blue Ribbon committee's recommendations on the government's allegedly overpriced COVID-19 supply contracts but insisted that his administration won't do anything that would "jeopardize the trust of the people."

The committee, which investigated the administration's pandemic supply deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., recommended the filing of charges against Duterte after he steps down from office for defending officials involved in what it called a "horrible crime" against the people.  

A partial report released by its chairman Sen. Richard Gordon accused Duterte of betraying public trust and of tolerating the supposed misdeeds of his associates and appointees. The investigation on the Pharmally contracts was launched after the Commission on Audit reported that some P42-billion was transferred from the health department to the budget department's procurement service without supporting documents.

Duterte, who had accused senators of using the pandemic supply deals to gain publicity, was surprisingly calm when he brought up the controversy during his public address last Monday. Unlike his previous speeches, where he attacked Gordon and other senators who scrutinized the transactions, Duterte merely said he won't waste the time of Filipinos reacting to the committee recommendation.

"There will be a time when we will discuss the Blue Ribbon Committee. But you're right, you ignore it because it's really nothing. Well, there will be a time to answer them fully and concisely but it is not now," the President said.

"I will not waste the time of the people of the Philippines and yours... Because it's more of a personal, it's like something personal to me... Susmaryosep (My goodness). Corruption," he added.

Duterte, nevertheless, said he would have pocketed state funds when he was still a mayor if he was really corrupt.

"We assure you that we have kept on the side of truth and right, and we will never jeopardize the trust of the people by committing what they called a crime. I am not like that," Duterte said.

"If I wanted to do it, I should have started it before. If I wanted to have money, (an) opportunity to gather money, I should have started doing it when I was still a mayor. By the time (I leave) the mayorship, I would have carried with me five sacks (of money)," he added.

Duterte said he has spent most of his time in government, having served as a mayor for 23 years, a member of the House of Representatives for four years, a vice mayor for another four years, and a prosecutor for eight years.

"My father was a politician, and I learned from him so many things... I am thankful, because of the guidance of the Lord, I have been treading the straight path until now," he said in Filipino.

The committee's partial report also recommended the filing of plunder cases against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III; former budget department procurement service head Lloyd Christopher Lao; former procurement service director and now Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong; Duterte's former economic adviser Michael Yang, who reportedly served as Pharmally's financier and guarantor; Pharmally chairman Huang Tzu Yen; Pharmally finance officer Lin Weixiong; and Pharmally executives Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani, and Krizle Grace Mago. It also called for the prosecution of Duque, Lao, Yang, Liong, Ong, Huang, Lin, Mago, and the Darganis for supposedly violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 




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