Michael Yang

Michael Yang’s latest excuse for Senate probe snub: Pharyngitis

Mara Cepeda
Michael Yang’s latest excuse for Senate probe snub: Pharyngitis

NO-SHOW AGAIN. Michael Yang, former presidential economic adviser, attends the blue ribbon committee hearing on September 10, 2021.

Senate PRIB

This is not the first time the Chinese businessman cited health reasons for being absent in the proceedings

Chinese businessman Michael Yang, former adviser to President Rodrigo Duterte who filed a case with the Supreme Court against the Senate, was once again a no-show during the hearing of the blue ribbon panel investigating anomalous pandemic deals linked to him. 

On Friday, November 26, Yang’s lawyer Raymond Fortun wrote a letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III and blue ribbon committee chair Senator Richard Gordon saying his client would not be able to attend the hearing due to nonexudative pharyngitis or inflammation at the back of the throat. 

Just a day earlier, Yang filed a case with the Supreme Court against the Senate panel’s two arrest warrants against him for initially failing to attend the hearings then giving evasive answers to senators when he did show up. 

Fortun said Yang was advised by a certain “Dr. Lim” of the Davao Doctors Hospital on Wednesday, November 24, to take a rest for one week. The lawyer said Yang’s physician also “could not fully rule out the possibility that Mr. Yang had contracted the COVID-19 virus.”

But the handwritten medical certificate from Lim that was attached to Fortun’s letter to the Senate did not indicate the doctor’s first name. 

This is not the first time Yang and executives of the embattled Pharmally firm have used a medical excuse for their absence during the investigation of the blue ribbon committee, now on its 15th hearing as of Friday. 

Health reasons have often been the excuse used by other resource persons in past congressional hearings on corruption issues hounding the government in a bid to evade further grilling by legislators. 

Last September 13, when senators already issued two arrest warrants against him, Yang did not attend the hearing because of high blood pressure

Then on September 30, Pharmally executives and siblings Mohit and Twinkle Dargani were cited in contempt for failing to attend the proceedings. Pharmally president Huang Tzu Yen told senators then that Twinkle could not attend because she was attending to her mother whose blood pressure shot up. Mohit later virtually attended the hearing, citing bad Wi-Fi signal.

The Office of the Senate Sergenat-at-Arms still cannot locate Yang, whose last known location was Davao City, home turf of Duterte and where the Darganis were arrested by Senate security before their getaway flight could take off. 

Lloyd Christopher Lao also absent

Also absent during the blue ribbon hearing on Friday was Lloyd Christopher Lao, the chief of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) that signed the government’s contracts with Pharmally. 

Gordon’s office said this was the fifth time Lao was absent during the hearings. 

Lao had asked the Senate in early November to reconsider its arrest order against him, but blue ribbon committee chair Gordon eventually refused. 

Prior to heading PS-DBM, Lao used to work under the Office of the Special Assistant to the President back when it was still headed by Duterte’s longtime aide turned senator Christopher “Bong” Go.

Go, however, has denied Lao was his protege. Lao also campaigned for Duterte in the 2016 elections. – Rappler.com

Read the other stories from the November 26, 2021, Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, and related reports:

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.