PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte took a swipe at several senators, including Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson, for grilling government officials on alleged irregularities in the use of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic response funds by the Department of Health (DOH).

Duterte, in a recorded public address aired on Tuesday, August 31, 2021, slammed what he said was Gordon’s “talkathon” during the Senate investigation on the matter.

Gordon, chairman of the Senate blue ribbon committee which is looking into DOH deficiencies amounting to P67 billion in the the use of Covid-19 response funds, said Friday, August 27, that the investigation into the possible conspiracy to amass billions of pesos using the Covid-19 response funds can go as high as the President.

Duterte also questioned Lacson’s honesty and threatened to release information against him.

He urged the public not to re-elect politicians who do nothing but to “show off” they are intelligent and knowledgeable.

He also threatened that he will order his Cabinet members to ditch congressional and Senate hearings due to the lawmakers' disrespectful treatment of lawmakers.

Pharmally deal

During the Senate hearing on Friday, August 27, Senator Franklin Drilon questioned former Procurement Service (PS) head Christopher Lloyd Lao on the awarding of an P8.68 billion contract to start-up Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation which only has P625,000 paid-up capital.

He said Pharmally offered to supply face masks at P27.72 apiece while other bidders made an offer for only P13.50 to P17.50 per piece.

Pharmally also offered to supply Covid-19 test kits for P1,720 per piece compared to P925 per piece from other companies. Personal protective equipment from Pharmally cost P1,910 per piece instead of P945 per piece from other bidders.

Drilon said the officials of Pharmally could not be located as of the moment.

Lacson, for his part, hinted during the said hearing the possible connection of Pharmally officials to Michael Yang, the former presidential adviser for economic affairs who allegedly has links with the biggest supplier of medical items.

"Maliwanag naman may tinutumbok tayo rito na large-scale corruption. What makes it worse, sa gitna ng pandemya, may kumikita," Lacson said.

Meeting

Gordon showed footage uploaded by state-run RTVM of Yang having a meeting with Duterte along with his former long-time aide Senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

Lacson said Pharmally officials were also present in the said meeting.

Drilon moved for the Senate blue ribbon committee to ask the Office of the Ombudsman for a proper investigation on the transactions entered into by the PS with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation for possible violations of anti-graft laws.

On Monday, Senator Risa Hontiveros said Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation has links with Taiwan-based-Pharmally International Holdings Corporation chaired by a certain Huang Wen-Lai who was ordered arrested for fraud charges. She noted that Huang Tzu Yen, one of the owners of the Pharmally Pharmaceutical, is the son of Huang Wen-Lai.

Gordon said they also issued a subpoena to Yang for the committee’s hearing on September 7.

Meanwhile, Duterte defended Yang who was earlier linked by former police officer Eduardo Acierto to the illegal drugs trade.

"Michael Yang has been in business for 20 years, he started in Davao,” he said.

"I thought we are inviting investors? That is why I went to China several times, for them to come and help us," he added.

Duterte also hit Senator Imee Marcos for making noise as she wanted to be recognized in preparation for her political plans in the 2022 national elections.

He said Marcos frequently visits Davao as she seeks the vice presidency with Davao City Sara Duterte as her runningmate.

'Panic mode'

In response, Lacson said in a statement that Duterte is in a “panic mode.”

He said Duterte seemed to be discouraging the Senate from pursuing its investigation on the anomalous transactions but he maintained they “will not flinch on this one.”

“There is a lot more to discover and pursue so that all those responsible for this abominable crime against the Filipino people who continue to suffer amid the pandemic will be exposed and charged in court at the proper time,” said Lacson.

Gordon for his part said in a virtual press conference that Duterte should call out his appointed government officials possibly involved in corruption and not on lawmakers trying to protect public funds.

“Dapat ang bigyan niya ng atensyon yang tao niya. Inappoint kita diyan bakit anlaki-laki ng mga binili mo, di mo maipaliwanag sa blue ribbon committee, sagutin mo yan. Yun dapat sabihin niya,” he said.

“Ang sasabihin niya sa mga tao was pakinggan ang COA, ang senado. Tapos iinsultuhin niya kami, ibig sabihin may tinatago talaga,” he added.

But he said he has forgiven Duterte over his remarks. (SunStar Philippines)