An office of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. on Friday admitted before a Senate hearing that they tampered with the expiration dates of the face shields delivered by the firm to the Department of Health.
This emerged as Pharmally bagged more than one-fourth of some P42
in contracts with the Department of Budget Procurement Service (PS-DBM) for medical supplies to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said.
Lacson cited DBM documents indicating that of 45 suppliers, Pharmally grabbed 26.39 percent of the P42 billion transferred by the Department of Health to the PS-DBM.
"Out of 44 other suppliers, Pharmally is No. 1, and you bagged 26.39 percent of the P42 billion transferred by DOH to the PS-DBM even with a P625,000 initial capitalization," Lacson told Pharmally Director Linconn Ong at the Senate hearing on the matter.
"We’d like to find out from PS-DBM. Is this the culture in PS-DBM to award the bulk of contracts to Pharmally? Is this unusual or is this very special?" he asked.
During the continuation of the blue ribbon committee hearing, Krizle Grace Mago said it was the instruction given to her by Pharmally corporate treasurer and secretary Mohit Dargani.
“The instructions came from our management, sir. I received instructions from the PPC management, particularly Mohit Dargani,” she told the committee.
Dargani, for his part, denied the allegation.
"Mago is used to receiving instructions from me, but in this case, it was not the case," he said.
Asked by Senator Francis Pangilinan if she thinks they were swindling the government, Mago said, "I believe so, Mr. Chairman."
"Because of these substandard items, our nurses and doctors who tested positive may have died in the absence of medical-grade face shields,” Pangilinan said.
He also requested security for Mago should she be willing to cooperate.
"You already admitted it, so you will be held liable for that. But if you tell the whole truth, then we should be able to provide you the necessary security to protect you,” he added. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday presented a video of a Pharmally employee alleging that 'soiled and substandard’ face shields meant for doctors and health care workers are currently being supplied by the company to the government, a Pharmally employee disclosed.
The interview on the Pharmally employee conducted by Hontiveros’ office was presented in Friday's resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on the misuse of the DOH's billions of COVID-19 funds.
Hontiveros said while health care workers (HCWs) were prejudiced dueto the government's failure to give them their benefits, they were also endangered because of the conditions of their protective equipment.
In a video Hontiveros presented to the hearing, the employee said he was a warehouse staff hired just recently.
He revealed that Pharmally instructed them to replace the certificates of face shields dated 2020 with new certificates dated 2021. He claimed this practice was still running when he was hired last August until September this year.
“The production date in the certificate po is year 2020. Then, we were asked to replace the certificate with updated this year. We were ordered by Ma’am Krizle Grace Mago to replace the certificate,” the employee said.
Hontiveros said, based on the witness’ statements, Mago seemed to be in the frontlines of Pharmally’s dubious activities.
Mago was also the person who exchanged messages with the senator’s previous source, in which she said that Pharmally had delivered two million face masks in advance without the PS-DBM employee’s knowledge.
“The HCWs were not given their hazard pay on time, they were also placed in danger due to substandard health supplies,” noted Hontiveros.
"It is criminal that we’re being supplied poor quality products that may have cost many of our frontliners’ lives,” she added.
The supposed employee said they changed the year in the certificates from 2020 to 2021.
The employee, who was not identified for security reasons, said: “Even if the face shields are crumpled, and the boxes are dirty and are not in good shape, we still repacked it. These were substandard items. The foam attached to the face shields were turning yellow as they were soaked in rainwater.”
After repacking the face shields, the witness said they would attach a sticker on them stating that it is “Philippine Government Property.”
When questioned, Mago also said she felt that she was appointed to the corporation Business Beyond Limits for “convenience.”
“I will cooperate… As mentioned earlier, I was placed as a nominee of the corporation, one-person corporation, for a convenience since they also needed my advice and expertise when it comes to different services,” she said.
“As a nominee, I actually don’t have any functions for the company,” she later added.
Mago said she was appointed by Sophia Custodio, the incorporator of the Business Beyond Limits.
“They made you, this company bid again… in the amount of P37,870,000 is that correct? That shows to me that you are part and parcel of this gang of thieves, which has been duping the country,” committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon said.
The senator claimed that the Pharmally executives might have urged Mago to “dirty her hands” so she would also be held liable.
The senators asked Mago if she wanted to talk to them in private so she could talk freely. Mago appealed to the senators to give her time to decide on the matter.
“Please, allow me to think about it as there are a few factors I have to consider as I am an employee of Pharmally. I have to consider both sides,” she said.
Hontiveros moved that they place Mago under their protective custody. Gordon said Mago should agree first before he approves Hontiveros' motion.
In related developments, TigerPhil Marketing Corp., the face mask supplier for Pharmally, paid additional taxes to the government as the Senate investigation on the allegedly overpriced pandemic medical goods continues.
TigerPhil official Albert Sy said the amount of tax they paid was amended to P1.1 million from an initial amount of P553,000 after Senator Lacson asked why the firm's declared sales of face masks to Pharmally was only at P3.4 million when the actual amount should be P21 million.
“We amended it, Mr. Chair. We have paid for it, today, at P1.1 million,” Sy responded when asked how much TigerPhil paid in taxes.
Lacson questioned whether TigerPhil would pay the correct taxes if not for the Senate inquiry. Sy replied it would.
Gordon said such development makes the chamber's inquiry on government transactions necessary, adding it disputed claims that the Senate action was pointless.
Lacson also questioned Tigerphil Marketing Corp., from where Pharmally sourced its face masks, how it netted P21.51 million in sales to Pharmally in 2020 when its audited financial statement for 2020 showed it only declared an income of P3.479 million.
Meanwhile, Lacson also questioned how Tigerphil managed to contact Green Trends, from which it sourced its face masks, when Green Trends had a fictitious address.
Lacson also threatened to have Pharmally Director Linconn Ong transferred to the Pasay City Jail after Ong remained evasive in his answers.
He noted Ong had claimed they sold at a high price because of a scarcity of supply, yet Pharmally managed to deliver medical supplies to the PS-DBM in under three hours.