The Department of Justice has issued an immigration lookout bulletin order against former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao and seven others being questioned by the Senate about alleged irregularities in the purchase of pandemic-related supplies.
Also on the list are Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. officials Twinkle Dargani, Huang Tzu Yen, Krizle Grace Mago, Justine Garado, Linconn Ong, and Mohit Dargani.
The lookout order alerts immigration authorities to monitor the travel itineraries of those on the list, should they try to leave the Philippines. It does not stop them from leaving, however.
Huang, chairman and president of Pharmally, is a Singaporean and is currently in his home country.
The Senate investigation is now focused on the Department of Health’s transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) for the purchase of medical supplies at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
The lawmakers gave special attention to the transactions entered into by the PS-DBM with Pharmally, a small firm that only had a paid-up capital of around P625,000 but secured over P8 billion worth of government contracts for the procurement of allegedly overpriced personal protective equipment and other medical supplies.
The DOJ is also expected to issue a lookout order for former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, who allegedly lent money to Pharmally that was used to pay for the supplies.
The Senate has officially requested the Bureau of Immigration, through the DOJ, to keep an eye on Yang.
The Senate panel made the request after Yang failed to attend Monday’s continuation of the Senate inquiry into the allegedly overpriced COVID-19 supplies due to health reasons. His lawyer, Raymund Fortun, said his blood pressure “shot up.” (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
Fortun added that Yang has been instructed by his physician, Dr. Jenny Adtoon, to “remain on bed rest for five days due to hypertensive urgency.”
He said the lookout order against his client was “totally unnecessary.” Fortun said Yang has continuously expressed his willingness to cooperate in the Senate investigation and has no plans of leaving the country during the course of the proceedings.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, flagged Pharmally’s incomplete documentation of transactions, after the company’s incorporator Krizle Mago admitted that it did not receive a delivery order but was issued a delivery receipt.
Hontiveros said corners cut by Pharmally “appeared to be a short cut to corruption.”
Pharmally’s incorporators seemed intent on profiteering and making a quick buck, and PS-DBM was a willing enabler, she said.
During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Monday, Hontiveros asked Mago if Pharmally had the four necessary documents to complete the procurement: a delivery order, a delivery receipt, an inspection and acceptance report of the delivery, and a statement of account of the delivery.
Mago said they had all but the delivery order.
This led Hontiveros to quip that while the government expedited transactions with Pharmally, it was slow to release the special risk allowances (SRA) to health workers.
The senator added that Pharmally seems to have bagged the contract only through referrals by Yang.
President Rodrigo Duterte continued his attack on the Senate probe, saying that all government officials must get his clearance before testifying.
He also defended Yang against allegations that he was involved in the drug trade.
In 2019, former Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, who once served as the officer-in-charge of the now-defunct Philippine National Police
Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, claimed Yang and a certain Allan Lim were behind the large shabu laboratory discovered in Davao City in 2004.
This was denied by several officials including then Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo, then PNP chief Oscar Albayalde, and then Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency chief Aaron Aquino.
On Monday, PDEA Director General Wilkins Villanueva said Yang was not implicated in any the files on a 2004 operation that discovered a clandestine drug laboratory in Davao City, Duterte's hometown, contrary to Acierto's claim.
Duterte said Senator Richard Gordon, who leads the probe as chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, "has forever lost his credibility" for supposedly listening to Acierto, who linked Yang to the narcotics trade.
"[Gordon] is in cahoots with criminals and these fabricated stories," Duterte said.
"I would just like also to remind Senator Gordon that I will campaign against you for being unfit to be a senator of this republic," the President added.
Gordon said the probe would continue.
“We will continue this investigation despite the threats of no less than the President. It's sad, but he's doing it. And other agencies and volunteer organizations are even harassed,” he said.