'Substandard' face shields repacked by Pharmally for DOH, Pharmally exec admits

Published September 24, 2021, 4:25 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Soiled and substandard face shields are allegedly being repacked and supplied by Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation to the Department of Health (DOH) for use of health workers.

(Jansen Romero/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

At the ninth hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Friday, September 24, Senator Risa Hontiveros presented a witness who supposedly worked in a warehouse used and operated by Pharmally while it supplies the government with equipment for COVID-19 response.

It was Pharmally, a newly-registered firm, which bagged over P8.6 billion in contracts from the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) for the DOH’s medical supply purchases.

In the video showed before the Senate panel, the unnamed witness, who identified himself as a contractual warehouse staff of Pharmally, said he and his colleagues were instructed to change the production date of the face shields in certificates to make it appear that these were new stocks.

“Nirerepack po namin sya, tinatanggalan po namin siya ng mga certificate na expired then papalitan po namin sya ng bagong certificate na nakalagay present year (We repack the products, then we remove the expired certificate and replace them with one that indicates the present year),” the witness disclosed.

“‘Yong mga nakalagay po do’n sa certificate nya is ano, production date po nya is, 2020, year 2020 pa po, then ang pinapagawa po samin nila ma’am is palitan po sya ng certificate na updated this year (In the original certificate, the production date is year 2020, then they will tell us to replace them with updated certificates),” he added.

The witness named Pharmally executive Krizle Grace Mago as the one who gave the instruction, noting that she regularly went to the warehouse.

Substandard, soiled

Aside from replacement of the production certificates, the witness lamented that Pharmally delivering substandard face shields to the government.

“Kahit po yupi-yupi ‘yong mga face shield, yupi-yupi na ‘yong mga boxes…Kahit po may mga dumi, may mga madumi, pinaparepack pa rin po sa amin nina maam sa amin ‘yon (Even if the face shields were deformed, the boxes were deformed…And even if they were dirty, Ma’am Krizle would ask us to repack them),” he said.

“‘Yong ibang face shield po doon may mga foam…is naninilaw na po…[‘Yong] iba nangingitim na kasi sa sobrang tagal na po stock sa warehouse nila na pinaglalagyan bago ideliver doon sa amin (Some of the face shields had foam to place on the user’s forehead, some of them were turning yellow, while some were already soiled because they were hidden in Pharmally’s warehouse long before they deliver the stocks to us),” he added.

A video clip of an inspection conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the DBM’s Procurement Service’s warehouse, presented to the public hearing on Sept. 10, 2021, shows the type of face shields purchased by the government. (Screen capture from Senate livestream/YouTube)

“Although substandard po siya, kahit yupi, kahit madumi, kahit naninilaw, kahit basa-basa na po, ‘yong iba po dun nababasa gawa po ng tulo sa warehouse (Although the face shields were substandard, deformed, dirty, and wet — because of the leaks in the warehouse, we still include them in the repacking),” the witness said.

The goods would then be labelled as properties of the Philippine government and the DOH.

“Bale ‘yong face shield na ‘yon ay for doctor and nurses use (Those face shields were intended for doctors and nurses’ use),” he further said.

These have been their practice since he was hired by Pharmally in August, until his contract ended last Sunday, September 19. They repacked two million pieces of face shields for the DOH, Hontiveros said.

Pharmally exec admits ‘swindling’ gov’t

Mago later would confirm that she ordered the modification of the production dates.

“Yes…That is something we cannot deny,” Mago told the senators, explaining that replacement of the certificates of the items was aimed at addressing a “supply concern”.

“I raised this concern to our management and that was the solution given to us,” she said.

She said Pharmally corporate secretary Mohit Dargani gave her the order, and that she just “follow[s] instructions”.

“So you were swindling the government?” Blue Ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon asked.

“I believe so, Mr. Chairman,” Mago responded. “I believe that is the case.”

Dargani denied this, saying the “instruction did not come from [him].”

But Mago maintained: “I am not changing my statements.”

Senators have questioned the government for awarding billions-worth of contracts to Pharmally despite its supposed lack of financial capability and track record in supplying medical supplies.

Pharmally executives admitted borrowing money from Chinese businessman Michael Yang, President Duterte’s former economic adviser, to finance some of their purchases.