Lacson: Ombudsman can probe controversial multi-billion peso Pharmally contracts

Outgoing Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said the Office of the Ombudsman could unilaterally initiate an investigation into the alleged corruption-laden, multi-billion-peso Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. Covid-19 pandemic contracts.

Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, said the Ombudsman probe would not be the result of an official act of the 24-member Senate because this was not reported out for floor debate .

The draft report of Senator Richard J, Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, had only nine signatures of senators.

The draft report needed 11 signature to be submitted for floor debate. Senators will either reject or adopt the report.

Thus, the draft report was merely ‘’archived’’ in the Senate records office.

‘’But remember Ombudsman may motu proprio mandate to initiate investigation. So kung ifo-forward ang committee report maski hindi official, pwedeng gamitin ng Ombudsman yan to initiate a fact-finding investigation (So if the committee report is forwarded can be used by the Ombudsman to initiate a fact-finding investigation),’’ Lacson said during a ‘’thank you’’ dinner for Senate reporters who covered the recent presidential and vice presidential campaign of the Lacson-Sotto tandem on Sunday, June 26.

‘’So pupuwede. Dapat (It can be done),’’ he added.

Lacson said he signed in favor of the draft report on the condition that he would interpellate and seek amendments during the Senate floor debate.

There was, however, no debate because there was no official committee report owing to the lack of two more signatures.

The focus of his planned interpellation, according to Lacson, is that ‘’betrayal of public trust sa tingin ko masyadong malayo na sa issue but Senator Gordon is trying to justify it na kasi sa pronouncements ni PRRD (betrayal of public trust is far from the issue but Senator Gordon is trying to justify it based on the pronouncement of President Duterte).’’

‘’Pero di yan pumasok sa (this did not enter in the) committee deliberations namin sa interpellation sa pagtanong (in a debate). Walang official record to show so doon nagkakatalo (A problem arises because there was no official record), Sayang dapat na-report out sa floor kaya lang kinulang ng signatures (Fat chance. It should have been submitted for floor debate but it lacked the required number of signatures),’’ he pointed out.

During the Senate probe, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon focused his attention on the issue of why the Procurement Service, Department of Budget and Management (PS, DBM) entered into several Covid 19-related contracts with Pharmally worth more than P10 billion although it had only P625,00 million paid up capital.

Gordon had criticized his colleagues for refusing to sign the draft panel report on the anomalies hounding the multibillion-peso pandemic contracts of President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

They “cannot shirk from our responsibilities” by refusing to sign the draft committee report,’’ he said.“The Senate’s full disclosure of the Pharmally plunder controversy achieves closure for our people. I am doing this as a chairman in a quandary. I respect my fellow members. I do not try to antagonize them or badmouth them. I respect the Filipino people,” Gordon said.

“The people of this country should not be denied the judgement or at least a debate whether there was malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance.... The acts done in Pharmally were done with impunity,” he added.

The 113-page draft report of the Gordon committee recommended the filing of cases against Duterte himself once his term ends for failing to go after his appointees and businessmen responsible for the irregularities uncovered in the Pharmally deals.

The draft report also recommended the filing of cases, including graft and plunder, against Duterte’s former economic adviser Pharmally financier Michael Yang, former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, and several other Pharmally executives and government officials.