Senators Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson stressed Monday that the arrest of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executives Mohit and Twinkle Dargani while about to leave for Malaysia from Davao City only proved that the city was not a “safe haven” for them.
The siblings were arrested at around 5 p.m. at Davao City Airport by the office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms.
But Davao Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio said the arrest of the Dargani siblings in her turf only showed the city government remained open and would not discriminate against anyone when it came to law enforcement.
“Our city is not closed to the things that need to be enforced by the government, whether it’s from the judiciary or legislative branches of the government,” the mayor said.
Duterte said there was nothing to hide in Davao City and that the local government supported all efforts to enforce the law.
“We should really support the duties of the government. We have nothing to hide here in Davao City,” Duterte added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, meanwhile, said, the executive branch deserved credit for the arrest of the Dargani siblings, adding it could have allowed the two to leave the Philippines if it wanted to.
“The important thing is, it’s the executive branch that halted them from leaving the Philippines. I don’t think it can be done without the cooperation of the executive branch because the airport is under the executive branch,” Roque said in a press briefing.
“They could have been allowed to fly if the executive wanted it. But they weren’t allowed to fly. We abided with the rule of law. We followed the contempt powers of the Senate. That’s why I’m saying, it’s the executive also that should be attributed to this act,” he added.
The Darganis were tagged in the alleged anomalous deals their company entered into with the government for the multibillion procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies.
“Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon at around 5 p.m., acting on a tip we received from concerned citizens, they were apprehended by a team of the Senate Sergeant-at-arms when they were about to flee via an executive privately chartered flight to Malaysia,” related Gordon.
He said it was not surprising the Dargani siblings sought sanctuary in President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown of Davao and plotted to execute their grand escape from there.
“Indeed, they chartered a private plane and were leaving via Davao where they figured they could be safe and make law enforcement officers pause or hesitate to arrest them,” noted Gordon.
Gordon, chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, led the probe into the irregularities in the procurement of medical equipment to respond to COVID-19.
Lacson said the arrest of the Dargani siblings showed there was no such thing as a safe haven — not even Davao City.
“If the Dargani siblings though that Davao City is a safe haven, just like Michael Yang and Christopher Lao are thinking, they should think again,” said Lacson.
“There’s no safe haven on earth, even for people like Yang, Lao, and the Dargani siblings. Davao City is not a haven. They should stop thinking di sila magalaw doon,” the standard bearer of Partido Reporma said.
“As what was proven yesterday, they are now in the Senate premises. They will be ‘forced’ to attend the Nov. 25 Blue Ribbon hearing,” he said.
Lacson emphasized there was no one in the mess who was untouchable.
Gordon added their apprehension proved anew that the siblings were trying to abscond from any liabilities.
In the past few weeks, he said the Senate had been scouring possible hideouts of the Darganis after they were cited in contempt and ordered to be arrested for refusing to submit documents the Senate needed in its investigation.
“We recalled that Mojit Dargani had two passports – one from Philippines and one from another country as he has admitted during our public hearing. We knew they were hatching their grand escape via the back door,” said senator.
“Flight, especially on an expensive international chartered jet, is truly a clear sign of guilt. Evasion has always been the strategy of the guilty. This should also apply to former PS-DBM Undersecretary Lao who has also been evading arrest,” said Gordon.
“We thank Senate President Vicente Sotto III who called me last night and made arrangements for a private plane to take the Dargani siblings back to Manila. We also commend Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Samonte and his men for doing their job well in protecting the Senate’s enforcement of its rules,” said Gordon.
But Gordon said their task was not yet complete. He said the Darganis would be detained at the Senate until they tell the Filipino people the whole truth.
“We hope they will be more forthright in answering our questions in the next hearing on Nov. 26,” he further said.
OSAA personnel arrested the Darganis at the Davao International Airport before they were to take a chartered flight for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Sunday. The siblings had since gone into hiding until they were caught.
Still at large are former Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service OIC Christopher Lao and former presidential\ adviser Michael Yang.
He added the OSAA led by retired Maj. Gen. Rene Samonte “deserves commendation from the senators and the Filipino people as well.”
Also, Lacson said that while Yang appeared “untouchable” so far, “our people in the Senate are not sleeping on the job,” and that both he and Lao “have been cited for (sic) contempt.”
Meanwhile, Lacson reiterated that the Senate should continue to learn its lessons from the Darganis’ near-escape and adapt accordingly.
“It bears repeating that we should also continue to learn our lessons from what happened and adapt accordingly — in this case, making sure that even with virtual hearings, the Senate retains its element of surprise and does not telegraph its moves,” he said.
The Darganis are currently jailed at the Senate detention facility.
They were cited in contempt by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee for refusing to submit Pharmally’s financial records.
Also detained in the Senate is Linconn Ong, another Pharmally executive.