MANILA, Philippines — Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon “firmly” believes a prima facie case “has been established” against executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. and government officials in connection to what senators say are questionable purchases of pandemic response supplies last year.
“At the very least, a prima facie (at first sight) case has been established and I assume the Ombudsman, as it has done in the past, would be monitoring our hearings. That is a basis to conduct an investigation in the Ombudsman,” Drilon said in an interview on ABS-CBN News Channel on Monday.
This, when asked if he thinks there is enough grounds to charge Pharmally executives and even some government officials tagged in the transactions being investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee.
“I believe, as a lawyer, as a former secretary of justice, that at the very least, a probable cause has been established to warrant the formal investigation either in the fiscal’s office or in the Ombudsman,” the minority leader added.
The blue ribbon panel has been investigating the government’s purchases of medical goods, including allegedly overpriced face masks, shields and other supplies, at the height of the pandemic in 2020.
During the course of the inquiry, senators have repeatedly questioned the Department of Health’s transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management for the purchase of pandemic response supplies.
A portion of this amount went to over P8.6 billion worth of contracts awarded to Pharmally. Senators doubted the financial capacity of the firm since it was only established in 2019 with a small capital of P625,000 when it secured the supply deals.
READ: Mago absent as senators pound on PS-DBM ‘favoritism’
Pharmally chairman and president Huang Tzu Yen has previously denied that they were favored in any way in the government’s procurement of medical supplies, saying the small company has been “unfairly prejudged.”
READ: Pharmally exec: All our business dealings are aboveboard
Until end of 18th Congress
Last week, the committee ordered the transfer of Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani and Linconn Ong from the Senate compound to the Pasay City Jail for their continued failure to produce financial records earlier subpoenaed during the investigation.
“The problem with Mr. Dargani is that he thinks that we will swallow hook line and sinker all the lies that he is peddling around and this gives us more reason to believe that something is amiss here,” Drilon went on.
“At the very least that corruption has taken place and there’s a lot of cover-up on the part of these resource persons to keep the truth from being brought out,” he added.
Asked how long the Senate can keep Dargani and Ong in its custody, Drilon said until the “expiration of the life of this Congress” or until June 30 next year.
“Under the decisions of the Supreme Court…that’s how long we can keep them,” the senator said.