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Drilon: 19th Congress can use Pharmally probe evidence to continue investigation

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's investigation into the questionable government purchases of COVID-19 supplies and alleged anomalous transactions with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation in the 18th Congress was not a waste of time as the testimonies and other evidence from the committee probe can still be used should the next batch of senators decide to pursue the investigation.

This was stated by outgoing Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon when asked about the fate of the draft report released by Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon in February, which is still not sponsored and adopted by the Senate plenary due to a lack of support from the majority bloc.

"If it (the committee report) is not filed, what the next Congress can do, if they are minded to, would be, if a member of Congress, particularly a senator, to file a resolution asking for the investigation of Pharmally and that is referred to the Blue Ribbon," Drilon said in an interview with reporters.

"The Blue Ribbon in the 19th Congress can adopt all the findings, all the evidence, all the testimony in the Pharmally [investigation] in the 18th Congress and reproduce these as records of the 19th Congress, call some more witnesses if they want to, or submit a report on the basis of what is on the record which includes the record of the 18th Congress and submit a report to the 19th Congress," the veteran lawmaker added.

However, he said the 19th Congress can revise the proposals and recommendations which were included by Gordon in his report.

"Everything is open. What I am saying is not everything would go to waste because they can utilize the evidence gathered. Kung wala mag-file, then the 19th Congress cannot take up anything because with the expiration of the 18th congress, the committee report which was not filed, was non-existent at all and you can only revive it by filing a new resolution," he explained.

For Drilon, the months-long investigation into the alleged anomalies in the transactions with Pharmally "is certainly not a waste of time" even though the proposed Blue Ribbon Committee report is not supported by their colleagues as the series of probes exposed the issue to the public.

"It is not certainly a waste of time because even if there is no committee report that can be supported by the majority, then we expose the anomalies which I am sure has put people on notice that this should not be repeated," he said.

"Example, where did that Pharmally corruption start? When [Health] Secretary [Francisco] Duque assigned P42 billion of their budget to the PS-DBM. Do you think any sensible public official will do the same thing and expose their kalokohan in the PS-DBM? That's one. Even if no committee report is filed, that is already the effect of the investigation. So it's not a waste of time. I dispute that," he added.

Last week, re-elected opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros expressed hope that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee report would be sponsored and adopted in the last week of the 18th Congress.

In February, Senate Blue Ribbon Chairman Richard Gordon released a partial report of the investigation into the transfer of P42 billion COVID-19 funds from the Department of Health to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

The investigation focused mainly on PS-DBM’s purchase of P8.6 billion worth of face masks, face shields, and PPEs from Pharmally, a firm that only had P625,000 in paid-up capital when it entered into government transactions.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman's report previously recommended the filing of criminal charges against Pharmally officials Linconn Ong and Mohit Dargani, and several government officials and individuals in connection with the alleged anomalous purchases of COVID-19 supplies.

The report also claimed that President Rodrigo Duterte betrayed the public trust in connection with his actions related to the government's multi-billion-peso contracts with Pharmally.

Gordon's report, however, still needs to gather enough signatures before it can be brought to the plenary, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said in an interview last Monday.

Should it be sponsored in the plenary, the senators would still need to debate its findings and recommendations before it can be adopted and called a Senate report.

The 18th Congress is set to adjourn sine die on June 3. — DVM, GMA News