"How did a small company with no track record become the government’s top pandemic-period supplier?"
Senators investigating the government’s COVID-19 spending clearly touched a raw nerve when they began digging into the operations of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a small, foreign-owned company that bagged about P8 billion in government contracts for protective equipment used during the pandemic.
To put things in perspective, Pharmally was incorporated in September 2019 with a paid-up capital of P625,000, of which P250,000 came from its incorporator, Huang Tzu Yen. The company had no sales or revenues in 2019, and incurred a loss of P25,549 because it spent on taxes and licenses. By the end of 2019, its total assets came to P599,540.
But when the pandemic hit the next year, this small company with less than P1 million to its name beat out other suppliers, including those with a track record of dealing with the government, and bagged a total of P8.7 billion worth of contracts to supply face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPE) at prices that were clearly higher than market value, coursed through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
This made Pharmally by far the government’s biggest supplier of pandemic contracts, with the second top supplier, a Chinese company, getting only P1.9 billion worth of contracts.
How, curious minds want to know, did a small company with no track record become the government’s top pandemic-period supplier?
Hearings before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee have revealed that its biggest stockholder, Singaporean Huang Tzu Yen, is linked through several companies to a former economic adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte, Michael Yang.
Huang and his father, Huang Wen Lie, it turns out, are also wanted in Taiwan for securities fraud, embezzlement and stock manipulation.
This is the same Huang Wen Lie that can be seen in a video footage from March 2017 being introduced to President Duterte by Yang in a meeting at the Palace. Huang We Lie is the chairman of Pharmally International Holdings based in Singapore, and is the father of the biggest stockholder of the Pharmally operation here that bagged P8 billion in government contracts.
Contrary to other testimony during the hearings, Yang has denied any involvement in the Pharmally transactions other than introducing the Philippine start-up to four Chinese suppliers. This ran in the face of testimony by Huang that Yang had lent the under-capitalized company money to finance its deliveries of face masks and face shields.
Faced with these embarrassing revelations, the President has not promised to go after the corrupt. He has not kept his promise to never tolerate “even the whiff of corruption” in his government. Instead, he has gone on the offensive, berating and threatening the senators leading the investigation, stooping now and again to personal attacks. He insists that the Pharmally deals are aboveboard, ignoring all the red flags that have been raised or the allegations of overpricing and influence peddling, saying only that the company has delivered the goods on time—as if this were the only measure of propriety.
Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson often makes it a point to say that the President himself is a lawyer, presumably to emphasize that he knows the law and would not do anything illegal. Well, the President is certainly showing he can lawyer—for his pals in the little pharma that could.