Gordon says probe into overpriced PPEs may reach Duterte

Published August 31, 2021, 5:48 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Richard Gordon said the Upper Chamber’s investigation into the overpriced personal protective equipment (PPEs) may go as high as President Duterte.

Gordon said there is a possibility that the Senate’s probe into the questionable transfer of P42-billions worth of COVID-19 pandemic response funds from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) may reach Duterte, though he is still not being invited yet to attend the Senate’s probe.

The panel is currently looking into the DBM-PS’s P8.7-billion contract with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. whose owner allegedly has close ties with the President, for the procurement of face masks and face shields. The contract was awarded to the obscure company by former undersecretary Christopher Lao who served as Duterte’s volunteer election lawyer in 2016.

“Yes, and that’s why the President siguro reacted. Wala pa naman kaming subpoena, hindi pa naman naming siya iniimbita pa. Nag-react siguro siya doon (We have not yet issued any subpoena, we are not yet inviting him. I think he reacted to that),” Gordon said in a virtual press conference.

Gordon said they will still scrutinize a picture and footage of the President with Pharmally officials, together with the heads of government agencies, including DOH.

Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, and a know ally of Duterte, and Yang, former presidential economic adviser, was also present in the meeting.

According to Gordon, the President should answer why he did not reprimand the officials involved in the transaction.

“Bakit hindi niya sinisita? Sinisita niya kami? Sinisita niya ang COA (Commission on Audit)? Hindi niya tanunging, totoo ba yang ginawa niyo sa COA? Ikaw Lao, totoo bay an? Totoo ba nagbigay ka ng P8.7-billion dito sa Pharmally? Bakit ikaw lang pumirma niyan? (Why won’t he reprimand them? Why is he singling the Senate? Why is he reprimanding COA? Why can’t he ask these officials to answer COA’s allegations? Why not ask Lao, if it’s true? Did he give P8.7-billion to Pharmally? Why did you sign it alone)?” he pointed out.

Gordon also said the Senate may also look into Go’s alleged links with Lao, who reportedly worked as his former aide when he was still Special Assistant to the President (SAP).

Go, in a privilege speech at the Senate, however, denied the allegations and insisted he didn’t know Lao personally and was never part of his office.