Duterte 'feeling the heat'; changed Pharmally stance for ‘damage control’—Hontiveros

Published November 11, 2021, 11:09 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said she believes President Duterte is now “feeling the heat” that is why he is now changing his stance on Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. as the Senate blue ribbon committee deepens its probe into the government’s questionable spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hontiveros said she is no longer surprised at the sudden turn around of the President, who earlier threatened to imprison Pharmally officials if they fail to settle their unpaid taxes or face imprisonment.

“I think he’s really…feeling the heat. His cooks are getting their finger singed, hindi nalang yung DOH at yung PS-DBM, Pharmally nga mismo, pati yung kanyang dating (not only the Department of Health and the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service but also his former) presidential economic adviser Michael Yang is not getting off the hook in the inquiries,” Hontiveros said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.

“Mas nga sumasabit yung bibig niya sa (His mouth is getting snagged on the) hook, so I think the President is shifting towards a damage control stance, towards this unprecedentedly damaging Pharmally case, damaging to his administration, and maybe even to his political capital,” the senator said.

Senators have centered its scrutiny on Pharmally which bagged the billions worth of contract for the procurement of COVID-19 pandemic supplies which lawmakers deemed were overpriced.

The Senate blue ribbon panel also questioned Pharmally’s dealings with the government and why it bagged the contract despite having only P625,000 in paid-up capital.

Duterte has repeatedly defended the government’s procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) from Pharmally and Yang, who has been implicated in the controversy after Pharmally executives pointed to him as the one who helped finance their needs so they can bag the contract.

He also repeatedly scored the Sen. Richard Gordon, who heads the Senate blue ribbon panel, and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on numerous occasions for pursuing the probe.

But on Tuesday, Nov. 9, Duterte, in a televised speech, suddenly changed his stance and warned Pharmally to pay their taxes or face possible imprisonment for tax evasion.