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Pharmally president appears in Senate probe on overpriced COVID-19 equipment

The chairman and president of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporations, the small firm that supplied the government with alleged overpriced medical goods in 2020, attended the Senate blue ribbon committee’s fourth hearing on the Department of Health’s use of COVID-19 funds Tuesday.

Huang Tzu Yen, chairman and president of Pharmally, was acknowledged present during the opening of the Senate inquiry. Huang Tzu Yen is currently in Singapore.

Apart from him, Iluminada Serbial, another official of the firm, attended the hearing virtually.

They were both subpoenaed by the Senate blue ribbon committee.

Despite Huang’s virtual appearance, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon raised a legal concern regarding the Pharmally official’s oath as he is in another  jurisdiction.

“We have a very peculiar situation here, an oath has been administered on a person who is outside of the jurisdiction of the country,” Drilon pointed out.

“The only remedy that I can think of is probably, Mr. Huang stating on the record that he is willing to reaffirm whatever the testimony will be in this proceedings and go to the embassy and submit the statement in affirmation of his statements here in order that the he can be bound under oath by the statements he makes,” he added.

“Otherwise, in my mind as a lawyer, there is an issue as to whether or not he is effectively placed under oath as he is not in the country.”

Huang told the senators that he is willing to reaffirm his oath before the Philippine Embassy in Singapore.

All Philippine embassies abroad are considered part of the country’s jurisdiction.

Senate blue ribbon chairman Richard Gordon affirmed Drilon’s concern and directed the committee staff members to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure that Huang will reaffirm the oath he made before the panel.

“In which case, the director general of the blue ribbon has started to call the Philippine embassy right now… so that the proper oath be given,” Gordon said.

Senate blue ribbon director general, Atty. Rodolfo Noel Quimbo, said the committee will make a formal request to the DFA.

Other officials from various firms that supplied the government with medical goods were also present and were acknowledged during the hearing.

The Senate investigation is now focused on DOH’s transfer of P42 billion funds to the PS-DBM for the procurement of face masks and face shields from different suppliers at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year.

The PS-DBM and its former chief, resigned Budget undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, are currently in hot water due to purchase of PPEs that was also flagged by state auditors.

The lawmakers gave special attention to the transactions entered into by the PS-DBM with Pharmally, a small firm that only had a paid-up capital of around P625,000 but secured over P8 billion worth of government contracts for the procurement of PPEs.

Senators were also seeking information on the possible links of Chinese businessman Michael Yang, Duterte’s former economic adviser, to Pharmally.—AOL/KBK, GMA News