The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has found that President Rodrigo Duterte betrayed the public trust in connection with his actions related to the government's multi-billion-peso contracts with Pharmally Corp.
In a 113-page partial report, the committee recommended plunder, graft and other criminal and administrative charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former government officials, and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executives.
Citing the law that the president could not be sued during his tenure of office or actual incumbency, the panel said the charges against Duterte should be dealt with after he leaves office.
"At some point after his term of office, charges must be considered against President Rodrigo Duterte for what has transpired in this great anomaly," the report said.
"After all, he was the one who appointed all the people who approved these transactions and aggressively protected and defended them when they were caught in this horrible crime against our people. In the course of doing so, the President attempted to diminish the Senate and COA (Commission on Audit), institutions that safeguard our democracy and integrity," it added.
The committee said Duterte betrayed the public trust, in violation of his oath of
office under the 1987 Constitution by:
- appointing Michael Yang, a foreign national, as “Economic Adviser to the President” in 2018. Yang then introduced numerous Chinese suppliers with whom the government transacted and in the process enriched himself immensely;
- accepting that an undercapitalized corporation owned by a Taiwanese fugitive, and with proven ties to Michael Yang, had dominance over pandemic procurement of COVID-19 supplies;
- seeking to discredit COA, whose Constitutional duty it is to conduct an audit of all government expenditures, and which had previously flagged the anomalous transaction, and through threats, prevent it from functioning;
- trying to discredit the credibility of the Senate by publicly attacking, maligning, and disrespecting the Senate as an institution, a co-equal branch of government, and its members duly performing their duties, and in doing so attempting to render inutile the Senate’s role in investigating corruption;
- ordering the issuance of a patently illegal memorandum preventing his cabinet members and other officials of his administration from attending the hearings; and
- refusing to run after his appointees despite calls from the public and the Senate to compel their attendance, in order to further the search for truth,; failing to hold accountable these appointees for one of the biggest plunders of the Philippines' coffers in recent history.
"The most troubling question remains - why was the President so quick to defend those closest to him once their names were linked to the anomaly and then so eager to discredit the Senate investigation, prevent his appointees from cooperating, and absolve them of any liability?" the report read.
"Why the massive attack and offensive based on false and unfounded accusations against a co-equal branch of government that was merely doing its job to protect the country not only from the unseen enemy that is COVID- 19, but also from perfidious enemies from within who deprived, for the sake of a greedy few, the Filipino people of the protection and succor that they needed during the most trying time of their lives," it added.
"Unfortunately, based on the President’s own behavior, one cannot help but conclude that he was aware of, allowed, and condoned," the report read.
The partial report released by the office of Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the blue ribbon, the panel said Duque violated Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 or the Plunder Law.
Others who were found in violation of the law were former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, former Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (PS-DBM) officer-in-charge Atty. Christopher Lloyd Lao, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong, Pharmally executives Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani, Krizle Grace Mago, Huang Tzu Yen as well as Chinese businessman Lin Weixiong.
The same names along with DBM official Dickson Panti should also be charged with violations of Sections (e) and (g) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the report indicated.
Yang's lawyer, Raymond Fortun branded the conclusion in the report as not having legal or factual basis, and "done not in aid of legislation but solely for reelection."
"Mr. Yang looks forward to the report being handled by an impartial investigation body that would decide the case based on actual evidence instead of hallucinations," he said.
Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer for Ong, called the blue ribbon a "kangaroo" panel. He said the partial report contained "nothing but reiterations of all the canard and obloquy that Gordon and his ilk have been repeating like a mad mantra since the first day of the hearings."
"I challenge Mr. Gordon and company to write finis to the farce they have started and are milking to the last drop to boost their floundering candidacies, and just let the justice system take its course. There, in the judiciary at least, my clients will be assured of a fair shake, unfettered by the oppression of the medieval Star Chamber into which Gordon has converted the BRC (blue ribbon committee)," he said.
GMA News Online has sought the comments of the other Pharmally officials, through their media relations officer, but they have yet to respond as of posting time.
Last week, Gordon said he will release the full committee report after they gather more information from five more individuals being linked to Pharmally.
The committee investigated the transfer of P42 billion COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the PS-DBM.
It looked into the PS-DBM’s purchase of P8.6 billion worth of face masks, face shields, and PPEs from Pharmally, a firm that only had a P625,000 paid-up capital when it entered transactions with the government.
In a statement, Duque maintained that the Department of Health was not involved in the controversial transactions with Pharmally Corp.
"It is unfortunate that the Panel turned a blind eye to the truth that was revealed during the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing that all procurements for the country's COVID-19 response were made through the PS-DBM, the agency purposely tasked to undertake such activities," Duque said in a statement. —LDF/NB, GMA New