Senators to get to the bottom of questionable purchases from Pharmally   

THE SENATE Blue Ribbon Committee will not stop until it untangles and identifies personalities involved in the questionable billions worth of medical equipment contracts awarded to a new company, Senator Ana Theresia N. Hontiveros-Baraquel said on Monday.   

In a press conference, she said they will “trace the dots no matter how far” it may lead.   

A former undersecretary, Lloyd C. Lao, was head of the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) when the purchases were made from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.  

Ms. Hontiveros said in Filipino that if Mr. Lao chooses not to be honest, “there’s a possibility that we cite him for contempt.” The senator added that if he is afraid and can be persuaded to talk, the Blue Ribbon Committee can help him get protection in exchange for his cooperation.  

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, in a separate statement, said the mystery backer of Mr. Lao and Pharmally Pharmaceutical is the “missing link” that will connect the dots in the corruption scandal that involved funds for the coronavirus response.   

“We see a pattern of corruption that was perpetrated by Lao and his cohorts. It cannot be done by Lao alone. He is covering for someone, and we need to find out who,” Mr. Drilon said in mixed English and Filipino. The “circumstantial evidence would show patterns of corruption,” he added.  

“It seems Pharmally has friends in high places,” Ms. Hontiveros said.  

Mr. Lao was appointed to the DBM in Aug. 2019 despite a pending extortion case when he was chairman of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. He headed the DBM-PS starting Jan. 2020. The Department of Health transferred a P42-billion fund to DBM-PS in March 2020 for the procurement of medical supplies such as face masks.  

Records show Pharmally Pharmaceutical was registered in Sept. 2019 with the Securities and Exchange of Commission (SEC) with a paid capital of only P625,000.   

Based on Pharmally’s 2020 financial statement submitted to the SEC, the company’s income stood at P285 million from zero in 2019. Its assets also jumped to P285 million in 2020 from P599,000 the previous year.  

Ms. Hontiveros called on DBM to stop accepting proposals from Pharmally Pharmaceutical given its close links to Pharmally International Holdings Corp., a Taiwanese firm whose chairman has been charged with financial fraud. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan 

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