DBM vows compliance with Ombudsman’s ruling on Pharmally issue

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

August 24, 2023, 9:20 pm

MANILA - The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday assured the public of its full compliance with the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision against individuals involved in the purchase of Covid-19 RT-PCR test kits from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

This, after the Ombudsman found probable cause to file three graft charges against former Procurement Service (PS)-DBM executive director Lloyd Christopher Lao, former PS-DBM procurement group director and now Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Rex Liong, former PS-DBM procurement management officer Paul Jasper de Guzman.

The Ombudsman also recommended the filing of one count of graft against former PS-DBM executives Webster Laureñana, August Ylagan, Jasonmer Uayan, and Christine Marie Suntay.

In a separate resolution, the Ombudsman also found Lao, Liong, De Guzman, Laureñana, Ylagan, Uayan, and Suntay guilty of administrative charges.

It recommended the imposition of penalty of dismissal from service with forfeiture of all their retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from re-employment in the government.

Responding to the Ombudsman’s decision, the DBM said Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has already instructed PS-DBM executive director Dennis Santiago to comply with the anti-graft body’s decision.

“Secretary Pangandaman has directed PS-DBM Executive Director Dennis Santiago to enforce the decision concerning former PS-DBM Director Warren Liong and Procurement Management Officer Paul Jasper de Guzman, as well as Webster Laurenana, August Ylagan, Jasonmer Uayan, and Christine Marie Suntay,” it said.

“The DBM will likewise comply with the Ombudsman’s decision regarding former DBM Undersecretary Christopher Lao, as he was formerly part of the agency,” the department added.

The Budget department said the dismissal penalty against the former PS-DBM officials will be converted into a fine equivalent to one year's salary of the respondents “due to their separation from service.”

“The DBM holds steadfast in its commitment to uphold the principles of transparency, good governance, accountability, and strict adherence to the rule of law,” it said.

The Ombudsman also recommended the filing of graft charges against Pharmally officials, including Twinkle Dargani, Mohit Dargani, Linconn Ong, Justine Garado, and Huang Tzu Yen.

The PS-DBM awarded Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation contracts worth PHP4.165 billion to buy personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits, which were believed to be overpriced, at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

Pharmally was registered in September 2019 with the Securities and Exchange Commission with a paid capital of PHP625,000. (PNA)