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Duterte’s rants push Senate panel to dig deeper into Pharmally’s ‘connections’

By: Christia Marie Ramos – Reporter /INQUIRER.net / September 14, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Because of President Rodrigo Duterte’s continued ranting against senators, the Senate blue ribbon committee will dig even deeper into the “connections” that led small firm Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. to corner over P8.6 billion in government deals in 2020.

“If he [Duterte] has nothing to hide, he won’t be hitting us like that. I can’t understand why. And if you continue to struggle, that may mean you’re hiding something,” Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the blue ribbon panel said in Filipino in an interview on Tuesday.

“And the more we will investigate because we will look for who really was the connection of these people. A P625,000 corporation can’t do such a big deal and get [nearly] P8.7 billion. It’s really puzzling as it has no track record,” he continued.

The Senate blue ribbon committee is currently investigating the procurement of allegedly “overpriced” personal protective equipment, face masks, and face shields made by the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) on behalf of the Department of Health in 2020.

At the center of the probe is Pharmally, which bagged government contracts worth over P8.6 billion in 2020 despite being only several months old and having just P625,000 in paid-up capital.

In a public address aired earlier Tuesday, Duterte continued ranting against the Senate probe into the purchase.

Particularly, he lambasted Gordon, asking what else the senator was looking for since the said pandemic medical supplies were already in the government’s hands.

Duterte also chided Gordon for spending long hours on the hearing while requiring people to attend despite not all of them being put under questioning.

In his interview, Gordon also questioned Duterte’s defense of former DBM-PS head Christopher Lao and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang.

“He should answer and not side with the people we are investigating,” the senator said. “He’s even defending his friend and badmouthing a co-equal branch of government.”

Yang’s ‘dummy’?

During one of the hearings, Pharmally President Huang Tzu Yen admitted that his firm borrowed money from Yang to help them fulfill some of the government’s medical supplies orders last year.

Huang made the statement after Yang maintained he had no ties with Pharmally and only introduced company officials to Chinese suppliers.

Yang was first linked to the controversial procurement after a 2017 video showed him introducing Pharmally officials to Duterte in Davao City.

Gordon suspects that Pharmally could have been a “dummy” of Yang, a perception earlier denied by Huang.

“We realize that we’ve caused a huge ruckus. But we just want to make sure that people don’t think that we are a dummy for Mr. Michael Yang. We have thoughts. We have visions. We work on our resources,” the Pharmally official had said

But Gordon believes Yang might have seen an opportunity to do business when the country was looking for pandemic response supplies at the height of the health crisis last year.

“Dummy. I think it’s a dummy. Pharmally was used as a front. It’s very simple. He would supply the funds for commonly used things — everything from PPEs to masks — from China,” Gordon said.

“So [what Yang probably said was]: ‘Put your people there in the DBM-PS.’ That’s my theory. ‘And make sure the contracts will be given to me because I have a lot of connections in China’,” he added.

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