Lower House probe triggered by senators linking Duterte to DOH supply overpricing claim

DIWA Partylist Rep. Michael Aglipay, chairman of the House Committee on Good Government, disclosed Wednesday, Oct. 6, that the chamber decided to step into the controversy surrounding the alleged overpricing of over billions of pesos in COVID-19 supplies when the name of President Rodrigo Duterte was dragged into the issue during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings.

Rep Michael Aglipay2

In a news forum, Aglipay also disclosed that Krizle Grace Mago, the controversial executive of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., will be released from the 'protective custody' of the Lower House as soon as the good government panel releases its findings on the recently-concluded parallel inquiry it conducted.

“Hindi namin kailangan mag-imbestiga pero noon 4th or 5th hearing, pinangalanan na si Presidente doon, at nili-link na si presidente. Maraming members ng House ang nagsabi na we have to initiate an investigation, motu propio. (We saw no need to investigate but during the 4th and 5th hearing the president was implicated then.)” said Aglipay, referring to the events that transpired during the hearings of the blue ribbon panel chaired by Senator Richard Gordon.

Duterte’s name surfaced in the hearings after his former Chinese economic adviser Michael Yang was implicated in the questionable medical supply procurements as Pharmally’s financier.

Former Malacanang Undersecretary Christopher Lao was also linked to the purchases because he used to head the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management when it procured billions of pesos worth of face masks and face shields at allegedly overpriced cost.

Aglipay said many House members questioned the credibility of the Senate hearings as they noted that witnesses have been subjected to bullying tactics, a method of probe that the Lower House abhors.

“We want to know the truth but in a fair and objective way,” he said.

Aglipay also admitted that the proceedings in the Senate that tended to blame Duterte for the controversy had contributed to the slight reduction of the chief executive’s trust rating in recent surveys.

“Malaki ang ibinaba ng ratings dahil sa ginawa ng blue ribbon,” he said.

Despite this, Aglipay assured that the committee report which will come out before November 4 will be “objective and fair.” He said Mago’s testimony which was a recantation of her Senate statements on Pharmally’s “swindle” of government, will be taken “with a grain of salt.” “Hindi naman tayo bobong pinanganak kahapon na kung ano iyong sinasabi niya ay paniniwalaan agad. (We are not stupid to immediately believe everything she said). Siyempre, we must take it with a grain of salt,” the partylist lawmaker stated.

Mago had sought the Lower House’s protective custody days after declaring in the Senate that Pharmally had hoodwinked government by delivering expired face shields worth billions of pesos.

She retracted during a good government hearing on Monday.