Opposition senators on Sunday said they may recommend criminal and administrative charges against those involved in the government's questionable deals with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp.
In an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, Senator Risa Hontiveros said these could include graft and corruption and gross negligence for buying supposedly overpriced medical supplies from Pharmally.
She said as additional evidence of overpricing and other irregularities surface, the senators could recommend the filing of more criminal and administrative charges.
Hontiveros' statement came as a key witness to the irregularities—a Pharmally executive who testified that she was ordered to tamper with the expiration dates of face shields that were sold to the government—went incommunicado.
Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee investigating allegations of anomalous deals in the government's purchase of medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Krizle Grace Mago could no longer be contacted after agreeing that her employer had swindled the government.
Hontiveros had earlier proposed placing Mago under the Senate's protective custody and Gordon agreed this could be done.
But in a post on Twitter, Gordon said Mago could no longer be
contacted by the Blue Ribbon committee. He added that she attended the ninth hearing where senators offered her Senate protection, but she said she wanted to think about it.
Senators earlier said the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) may have favored Pharmally either due to its alleged ties with former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang or because several officials may have been profiting from kickbacks.
Hontiveros said the government still has pending payments to Pharmally and called on the agencies involved to stop transacting with the company.
Senator Franklin Drilon noted that Pharmally, a small startup that had no track record and only P625,000 in paid-up capital, bagged at least P10 billion in supply deals through the PS-DBM since last year.
Senators also learned that Navy ships were used to deliver the medical supplies from Pharmally, which may indicate the President gave the company preferential treatment, Hontiveros said.
“It's clear that they can't say everything was by the book, that nothing anomalous happened,” Hontiveros said in Filipino.
Duterte has insisted that there was no overpricing and defended former PS-DBM director Lloyd Christopher Lao, whom the President admitted he appointed out of a debt of gratitude, and Yang, who introduced him to the owners of Pharmally.
He has also launched personal attacks against the senators, especially Gordon, seeking to revive a case against him from more than 20 years ago, when the lawmaker was still chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.
In her weekly radio program, Vice President Leni Robredo said she believed some government officials were involved in the anomalous pandemic contracts with Pharmally.
Robredo said the controversial Pharmally deals would not have been possible if they were not in connivance with government officials.
“What is most painful here is...there are too many of our countrymen who have died (due to COVID-19),” she said. “How can those people sleep at night?”
She cited the admission of a Pharmally executive that they had “swindled” the government.
Hontiveros, in an interview with Teleradyo, said she had hoped the weekend would have been enough for Mago to think things through.
“They have begun to expose each other. When our witness said Ms. Mago gave the instruction, Mago in turn pointed to Mohit Dargani,” she said in Filipino.
Mago said that as an employee, she was only following instructions from the management.
Hontiveros said she's praying for Mago's safety.