Gordon: Data privacy law can’t be invoked to defy subpoenas

Published October 26, 2021, 2:16 PM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair and Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday welcomed the National Privacy Commission (NPC) for saying that the law on data privacy rights cannot be invoked as an excuse to evade legal proceedings.

Gordon, who leads the Senate’s hearing into the alleged anomalous procurement of overpriced COVID-19 pandemic supplies by the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, said NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro’s pronoumcenent has now cleared any dispute on whether those invited to attend the blue ribbon panel’s investigation can conveniently hide behind the law protecting data privacy rights.

“We are glad that more people, both in the public and private sectors, and on their own initiative, speak up to uphold the rule of law,” Gordon said.

“Liboro’s initiative and insights are greatly appreciated by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and, if I may speak for the whole, by the Senate,” he stressed.

Liboro’s statement came as the Senate pnale is probing the multi-billion questionable transaction between the government and Pharmally for the purchase of medical supplies. Pharmally executives and other resource persons have been refusing to disclose information and documents supposedly on the grounds based on the Data Privacy Act of 2013.

The Senate had earlier cited for contempt Pharmally’s corporate secretary, Mohit Dargani and his sister, Twinkle, the company’s president for refusing to submit documents vital to the Senate investigation.

Another Pharmally official cited for contempt, Linconn Ong, the company’s director, has also refused to divulge information, citing “trade secret” when senators asked how his company is able to corner big contracts for the procurement of COVID-19-related supplies.

Ong is currently detained at the Senate, while the Darganis have yet to be detained by Senate authorities.

The President’s friend and former economic adviser, Michael Yang, has also refused to disclose vital information about his alleged dealings with Pharmally which he purportedly helped finance to help them win the contract.

Liboro, in an official statement last Oct. 21, clarified that the 2012 Data Privacy Act cannot be invoked in refusing to comply with subpoenas issued by government investigating bodies and evade legal proceedings.

The law, he said, “does not prohibit the disclosure of personal or sensitive personal information (collectively, personal data) when necessary for purposes of complying with validly issued subpoenas by government investigating bodies.”