Gordon convinced that Duterte is behind Pharmally execs' refusal to speak

Senator Richard Gordon on Monday, September 27, speculated that President Duterte was behind the decision of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executives to evade questions on its transactions with the government for the purchase of COVID-19 response supplies.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Philippine Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon (FILE PHOTOS/MANILA BULLETIN)

"Sino bang nagsasabi na principal na pinakamalaking tao na: 'Tigilan niyo na 'yong imbestigasyon'? Si President Duterte, 'di ba (Who was the principal and most influential person who keeps on criticizing our investigation? It's President Duterte, isn't it)?" Gordon told reporters in an online interview when asked who he thinks was behind the alleged effort to muzzle resource persons in the Senate's inquiry.

The Senate Blue Ribbon has not heard from Pharmally regulatory affairs head Krizle Mago since she admitted ordering warehouse workers to change the production dates of face shields to make them appear like new stocks.

Mago conceded that Pharmally may have swindled the government in doing so.

Meanwhile, Pharmally director Linconn Ong, who is currently under the Senate's custody, backed out from his reported request for an executive session with senators to divulge information on Pharmally's financial dealings.

Gordon was referring to Duterte's criticisms of the Senate Blue Ribbon's investigation on the alleged overpricing of medical supplies procured by the Department of Health (DOH) amid the COVID-19.

He also cited the Chief Executive's defense of Michael Yang, his former economic adviser whom Pharmally executives said helped in financing their orders, as well as his appointment of former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who awarded the contracts to Pharmally as head of the budget department's Procurement Service (DBM-PS).

Gordon also alleged that Duterte has been empowering Yang to ignore the Senate's summons and refuse to answer questions.

"Kaibigan niya ang Presidente, pinagmamalaki niya, eh (He is a friend of the President, and he is proud of it)," the senator said of Yang.

"Akala nila habang tumatagal makakalusot sila. Ang di nila ina-account, habang tumatagal, nahuhuli sila. Kaya gusto nilang itigil na (They thought that they will be able to get away from this. What they did not account for is that, the more we pursue the investigation, the more they get caught. That's why they wanted to stop this)," Gordon said.

"It's a nightmare for them. Every time there's a hearing, may lumalabas na bago, eh (more things are uncovered)," he added.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has already sought the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to locate Mago who remains unreachable as of Monday. Mago had said that she would reach out should she decide to accept the protection offered by members of the panel.

"The chairman and the committee is worried as to the safety of Ms. Krizle Mago...after her damaging testimony against probable co-conspirators," the committee said in a letter addressed to NBI officer-in-charge Eric Distor.

"The chairman requests the NBI to help us look for her," it appealed.

Earlier, Gordon said they received information that Mago is no longer in her residence and is now in a safehouse surrounded by "certain bodyguards".

The bodyguards were not sent by the Senate.