Duterte backs Ombudsman probe on Pharmally issue

By Azer Parrocha

October 20, 2021, 3:19 am

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte welcomed calls for the Ombudsman to conduct its own investigation into the controversial multibillion-peso deals between the government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

This, after the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP) urged the Ombudsman to file the appropriate cases against all those responsible for any corruption.

“We welcome the call of the Philippine College of Physicians that this matter should immediately be given to our courts and the Ombudsman. We have been saying this for the longest time and we all know that the Senate cannot prosecute. Mabuti pa ang mga doktor, alam at naintindihan nila (At least the doctors understand). Filing cases is the right way to go,” he said in a pre-recorded public address aired late Tuesday night.

Duterte urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which conducts a series of probes into the Pharmally controversy, to stop using the issue “in aid of election.”

“Problema kasi sa Senate natin, trying hard maghanap ng mga issue na may nangungurakot o kaya may nagkakapera (The problem with the Senate is that it’s trying hard to look for issues of corruption) but up to now the committee has not really built a case out of the numerous hearings they have conducted,” he said.

He said there was no overpricing in the government’s medical supplies procurement, noting that they were consistent with Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Duterte said the Senate panel is free to file charges against companies involved in tax-evading.

“If you think you have identified companies with tax issues then file the appropriate cases. Matagal naman naming sinasabi: Kasuhan niyo ang mga dapat kasuhan. Lahat naman talaga dapat magbayad ng buwis (we have been saying for the longest time: File charges. Everyone should pay their taxes),” he added.

He challenged the Senate to bring before the Supreme Court his memorandum prohibiting executive officials from attending Senate probes.

“You call my memorandum stupid? Well I challenge you, bring your arguments to the proper court and I will answer you,” he said.

Duterte also lambasted Senator Richard “Dick” Gordon for supposedly threatening to cut budgets of government agencies and departments over his memo.

“You threaten the budget of different agencies of the executive because the officials refuse to attend to your hearings? Itong pangaabuso talaga…And they threaten to paralyze government, I challenge you do it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte floated anew the possibility of letting the Ombudsman step into the issue of Gordon allegedly failing to return about PHP86 million in public funds when he was still chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

“I think we will have to see if we can call on the Ombudsman to step in because matagal itong utang na ito at (this unreturned money was so long ago and) final and executory na,” he added.

Gordon was chairman of SBMA from 1992 to 1998.

Duterte earlier said Gordon could be charged with malversation in connection with the unreturned money. (PNA)