Senate panel orders transfer to Pasay City jail of Pharmally exec Ong

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has ordered the transfer of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation director Linconn Ong to the Pasay City Jail for his refusal to answer the senators' inquiries about their company's deals with the Philippine government.

The Senate on September 21, 2021 takes Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. Linconn Ong (middle, in blue) into custody after the resource person is cited for contempt for evading questions on the firm's deals with the Philippine government for the procurement of COVID-19 supplies. (Senate PRIB)

Senators lost their patience with Ong, whom they had detained at the Senate building in Pasay City for supposedly being evasive when questioned about Pharmally's financial capacity.

"I'm sick and tired of this. Pagod na rin ako, eh. Pagod na tayong lahat rito (I am also tired. We are all tired here)," Senator Richard Gordon said at the panel's ninth hearing Friday, September 24.

He ordered Ong's transfer to the Pasay City Jail upon approval of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

"You lie and you steal from our people, you're gonna pay," he told Ong.

Before this, Senators Panfilo Lacson, Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan moved that Ong be jailed, instead of staying in the Senate's custody.

They were pressing Ong to disclose how much Pharmally borrowed from Michael Yang, President Duterte's former economic adviser, for their purchases of medical supplies.

Yang refused to divulge the amount, although reiterating that the money he loaned to the firm came from his "friends".

Ong also insisted that that they signed a non-disclosure agreement on it, and senators should ask Yang instead.

Drilon advised Ong to avail of an executive session with senators so he could disclose details of their borrowings, but Ong said he would consult his lawyers.

Gordon also chided Pharmally chairman and president Huang Tzu Yen for invoking data privacy in refusing to identify their financial sources.

Huang maintained that their transactions were all above aboard and the firm's capital came from his life savings.

"We did not steal money from the Philippine government," he said.

"I do not understand why there is a constant scrutiny on how we funded the projects," he lamented.

Gordon instructed the Senate committee to write the Singapore government about them "having a hard time in this country because some Singaporean stole money or crafted to make sure that money was produced somewhere and they were able to get a lot for resources from the Philippines that should otherwise go to the Filipino people".

"You are lying to your teeth," he told Huang.

The lawmakers doubted how the foreign firm was able to take on over P8.6 billion worth of government contracts for the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other medical supplies, with only a capital of P625,000 when it was incorporated in late 2019.

According to its 2020 financial statements submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission and presented in the Senate hearings, Pharmally had a total cash capital P599,450, while declaring a total operating expenses of over P42 million, P33.1 million of which were classified as "donations" to the government.

Meanwhile, Gordon moved for the issuance of arrest warrants against six executives of Green Trends Trading International Inc., which originally supplied the face masks to Pharmally's supplier, TigerPhil Marketing Corporation.

The panel learned that the personalities used "fictitious" addresses in their firm's SEC documents when they sent subpoenas to the resource persons.