MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte was reminded by Senator Richard Gordon that if the former is looking to fund the government’s response to the disaster caused by Typhoon Odette, he can look at the allegedly anomalous transactions done by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.
Gordon during the hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on Tuesday told Duterte, who last Friday said that he is still looking for funds for the calamity response, that the money allegedly wasted by purchasing pandemic goods from Pharmally and the unpaid taxes could have saved money for the government.
“Kita niyo, sasabihin niyo pa […] ‘naubos talaga ‘yong pera natin’. Eh nakadagdag po dyan ‘yong nawalang pera dito sa Pharmally. Nakadagdag din ‘yong perang nawawala sa pangungulimbat at ang yumayaman lang ay ‘yong ilang mga tauhan ninyo,” he said at the beginning of the hearing.
(Look at you, you will now say: our funds have really run out. But that also includes money lost due to the Pharmally transactions. The money lost due to corruption also contributed to that, the corruption which only allowed people close to you to get rich.)
The Senator also accused Duterte of continuing to defend Chinese businessman Michael Yang, the President’s former economic adviser. According to Gordon, what Duterte did — hire Yang, a foreign national as an adviser — was really wrong.
Aside from that, he insisted that Yang and other individuals and companies linked to Pharmally did not pay their taxes.
“Sana tigilan niyo na at tulungan niyo na lang ang bayan natin imbes na pinagtatanggol ninyo si Michael Yang na isang banyaga na in-appoint niyo pa bilang economic adviser. Sorry Mr. President, minura niyo ako? Uulit-ulitin ko lang ‘yong ginawa niyo na hindi tama: hindi tayo nag-aappoint ng foreign economic adviser lalo na at may problema tayo sa China,” Gordon said.
(I hope that you help us, instead of just defending individuals like Michael Yang, a foreigner you appointed as economic adviser. Sorry Mr. President, you cursed me? But I will just repeat what I told you before: it is not correct to appoint a foreign economic adviser, especially that we have a problem with China.)
“Di ako nagtataka kaya maaaring pumihit kayo dahil na-impluwensyahan kayo naging malapit kayo, naging tuta kayo ng China, Mr. President — hindi ng tao ng China, ngunit ‘yong mga pinuno ng China,” he added.
(I wouldn’t be surprised why you shifted your stance, maybe because you were influenced, you were close, and you followed orders from China, Mr. President — not the people of China, but its leaders.)
During a briefing last Friday, Duterte said that he was late to a briefing because he talked with the finance cluster on where to source funds because the COVID-19 pandemic has dried up the government’s coffers.
“We are trying to raise the money, I was also late because I was talking with the budget, alam mo depleted ‘yong budget natin immensely because of the COVID, naubos talaga ‘yong pera natin,” he said.
(We are trying to raise the money, I was also late because I was talking with the budget, you know our budget has been depleted immensely because of the COVID, we really spent our money.)
“Itong COVID, naubos ang pera natin. So we’re trying to screen how much we can raise so that we can marshal it to the areas affected,” he added.
(This COVID really emptied our coffers. So we’re trying to screen how much we can raise so that we can marshal it to the areas affected.)
During the Senate blue ribbon committee’s hearing last October 28, it was revealed that certain individuals like Yang, former Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) head Lloyd Christopher Lao, and Pharmally officials Mohit and Twinkle Dargani may have not paid the right amount of taxes.
This is aside from allegations that Pharmally benefitted from the deals with the government, after the Commission on Audit (COA) spotted deficiencies in the Department of Health (DOH) COVID-19 funds worth P67.32 billion.
Of this P67.32 billion, DOH transferred over P42 billion to procuring agencies like the PS-DBM.
PS-DBM, headed then by Lao, approved contracts worth around P8.6 billion for Pharmally, despite the company having a small paid-up capital of P625,000.
There are also accusations that Pharmally’s equipment were overpriced, like in the case of face masks sold at over P27 per piece in April 2020, when other companies offered a price of P13 per piece.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter