Senate panel recommends admin, criminal raps vs Lao, Duque; seeks deportation of Duterte’s ex-adviser

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges, including graft and plunder charges, against former Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Services (DBM-PS) Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon panel released to reporters a copy of the committee report on Tuesday afternoon, or a day after the House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, released their own report and recommendations following the respective investigation into the questionable COVID-19 supply contracts entered into by the government with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. which only had a paid-up capital of P625,000.

“Clearly, the following public officials violated the law in illegally favoring an underfunded and unqualified supplier: PS-DBM OIC Lloyd Christopher A. Lao and Atty. Warren Rex H. Liong,” Gordon said in the partial committee report’s summary

“Likewise, in cahoots with the aforementioned public officials are the following private persons who broke the law: Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, Huang Tzu Yen, Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani, Liconn Ong, Krizle Grace Mago, Gerald T. Cruz, Rose Nono Lin, Lin Weixiong, and Michael Yang,” Gordon further said.

The report is now being routed for signature among members of the panel. The Senate blue ribbon committee conducted 19 hearings on the controversy which stemmed from the Commission on Audit’s (COA) 2020 report on the DOH’s budget utilization of COVID-19 pandemic funds.

Likewise, the Senate panel’s report scored President Duterte for his role in the procurement of overpriced medical supplies at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic stating that all the acts of

“malfeasance, misfeasance, and/or non- feasance were consummated and undertaken with brazenness under the nose of the President.”

“The amounts involved in the dirty transactions were enormous , producing a stench that would have been impossible to ignore in Malacanang,” the panel’s report stated.

“The President as Chief Executive should have known what his appointees and friends were doing. If he did not know prior to the Senate investigation, then it certainly came to his attention when the hearings were underway, and instead of investigating the matter or supporting any such investigation, he chose to defend and protect those closest to him who had dipped their fingers into the coffers of the nation,” it further said.

“To make it more egregious, it happened at a time when our people needed the resources of the government the most and when their lives depended on it,” Gordon’s panel added.

“The President thus betrayed the public trust, in violation of his oath of office under the 1987 Constitution by, among others (by) appointing Michael Yang, a foreign national, as ‘economic adviser to the President’ in 2018,” the report also said.

The Senate panel’s report also endorsed the filing of cases to support the deportation of Michael Yang, Lin Weixiong, Qing Jin Ke, for being undesirable aliens.

According to Gordon’s report, Yang’s violation of multiple laws including tax evasion under Republic Act (RA) 8424, or the National Internal Revenue Tax Code, justifies the filing of criminal charges, his declaration as an undesirable alien, and immediate deportation.

“Despite decades of lucrative and peaceful sojourn in our country, his care is not for others who had not only been hospitable to him, but also even allowed him to amass great wealth,” the report said.

“He has no healthy respect for law for he had always been sheltered by the mayor, and now the chief executive of the land. He displays arrogance during hearings, evincing a lack of respect for authority,” it added.

The committee report, particularly recommended the filing of charges for violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Lao, Warren Rex Liong, Dickson Panti, Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani, Twinkle Dargani, Krizle Grace Mago, Huang Tzu Yen, Michael Yang aka Yang Hong Ming, Lin Weixiong and Duque.

The panel also recommended estafa charges against Mago, an executive at Pharmally who initially testified about the company’s decision to sell substandard and expired face shields but later on retracted her testimony.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) has yet to locate and arrest Lao, who remains at-large.

The report also said it found Duque criminally liable for moving approximately P42-billion from the DOH to DBM-PS to hasten the purchase of much-needed COVID-19 supplies upon the orders of the President without ensuring that the equipment to be purchased are not overpriced.

“In the beginning of the struggle against COVID-19, he even set an inherently overpriced suggested retail price of PPEs at P2,00024; while others were procuring at about half the price. This public officer posed no serious questions against the wisdom, method, and legality of the inter-agency transfer. This is Secretary Francisco Duque III,” the Gordon report stated.