Senate panel cites Duterte's former adviser in contempt, arrest sought

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has moved for the issuance of an arrest warrant against Michael Yang for refusing to attend its probe on the Department of Health's (DOH) disbursement of COVID-19 response funds.

President Duterte and Philippine Red Cross chairman Senator Richard Gordon (File photos)

At the resumption of their inquiry on Tuesday, September 7, Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon approved a motion from his colleagues to cite Yang in contempt.

The committee issued two subpoenas in attempt to compel Yang to attend its hearings to no avail. Yang was not found in the addresses they served the summonses to.

Senators have linked Yang, President Dutertes former economic adviser, to the procurement of "overpriced" personal protective equipment (PPEs), face mask and face shields by the DOH thru the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (DBM-PS).

They questioned the DBM-PS' grant of contracts worth over P8 billion to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, despite the lack of track record and having a paid-up capital of only P625,000.

The lawmakers also found that the address that the company submitted in its registration documents were "fake", after the committee failed to serve subpoenas to its officials.

Aside from these, they also cited the firm's possible link to a company involved in a fraud scandal in Taiwan.

A 2017 video clip shown during the previous committee hearing showed Yang introducing Pharmally officials to Duterte.

Duterte ally Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go urged Yang to attend the hearing, maintaining the President will not condone corruption even if it involves his "friend."

But Duterte has vouched for Yang, saying the Chinese national has been doing business in the Philippines for 20 years and wouldn't be involved in shenanigans. His spokesman, meanwhile, maintained that nothing was wrong with the government's deals with Pharmally.

Pharmally exec faces probe

Huang Tzu Yen, Pharmally Pharmaceutical chairman and president, on the other hand, attended the Tuesday's hearing virtually from his residence in Singapore.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, former justice secretary, proposed to the panel to ask the foreign national to reaffirm his oath and testimonies in the hearing before the Philippine embassy in Singapore.

Huang agreed: "Yes, I'm willing to reaffirm my oath in the Philippine embassy".

Asked about his company's address in a condominium in Taguig City, Huang maintained that they are leasing the office, despite a certification secured by the Senate committee stating that the firm is no longer a tenant in the building.

In the same hearing, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee also moved for the arrest of Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani, Linconn Ong, Krizle Grace Mago and Justine Garado, for failing to show up.

The panel found that one of them has left the Philippines for Dubai last August 18.

Under Senate rules, the Senate President must sign the arrest warrant before they are served to the respondents. The warrant will compel the resource persons to attend the hearing.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, in confirming the chamber's rules, expressed willingness to sign the arrest order against Yang and other resource persons.