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MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has recommended the filing of charges against government officials and private individuals tagged in the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation mess.
In a resolution dated August 14, the special panel of investigators of the Ombudsman recommended the filing of three counts of graft under section 3(e) of the Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, against the following:
- Lloyd Christopher Lao, former Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) undersecretary
- Warren Rex Liong, former procurement director, currently the overall deputy ombudsman
- Paul Jasper de Guzman, procurement management officer
- Private respondents: Twinkle Dargani, Mohit Dargani, Linconn Ong, Justine Garado, and Huang Tzu Yen
The following, all of PS-DBM (save for the private respondent), face one count of graft:
- Christine Marie Suntay, director
- Webster Laureñana, acting division chief of procurement division
- August Ylagan, employee
- Jasonmer Uayan, procurement management officer
- Krizle Grace Mago, private respondent
The graft charges against other respondents in the case were dismissed due to insufficiency of evidence, according to the Ombudsman. The other charges filed – for alleged violation of articles 171 (falsification) and 213 (fraud against public treasury) of the Revised Penal Code, and section 3(g) of the RA No. 3019 – were also dismissed due to lack of probable cause.
Pharmally was among the biggest scandals, on top of other controversies, that rocked the presidency of former president Rodrigo Duterte who boasted of a supposed corruption-free administration. A string of anomalies was exposed in connection with the multi-billion-peso COVID-19 contracts awarded by Duterte’s government to Pharmally, a small, unknown company with a mere P625,000-capital.
An investigative report by Rappler revealed that Chinese businessman Michael Yang, Duterte’s former economic adviser and friend, has links to Pharmally. The company’s officials said Yang was their financier and guarantor, but the former presidential adviser denied the claim.
In explaining the filing of graft charges, the Ombudsman said it found probable cause against some of the respondents. The Ombudsman said the respondents who will be charged, conspired and connived with each other in awarding, “with manifest partiality and in bad faith,” the following contracts:
- Procurement of 8,000 BGI Real Time Fluorescent RT-PCR kits in the amount P600 million
- Procurement of 2,000 A*Star Fortitude RT-PCR test kits in the amount of P688 million
- Procurement of 41,400 BGI Real Time Fluorescent RT-PCR kits in the amount of P2,877,300,000 to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, which caused “undue injury” to the government in the total amount of P4,165,300,000
Aside from graft charges, some of the officials also face administrative sanctions.
In a separate resolution, the Ombudsman said it also found Lao, Liong, De Guzman, and Laureñana guilty of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Aside from them, the Ombudsman also found Ylagan, Uayan, and Suntay guilty of gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The Ombudsman recommended the imposition of penalties against the respondents: dismissal from service, with forfeiture of all of their retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in government service.
In case the penalty of dismissal is no longer applicable to the respondents due to their separation from government service, “the same shall be converted into fine in the amount equivalent to respondents’ salary for one year, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from respondent’s retirement benefits, accrued leaved credits, or any receivable from his/her office.”
The Ombudsman also found former health assistant secretary Nestor Santiago Jr. guilty of simple neglect of duty, and imposed a penalty of fine equivalent to his one-month salary. The administrative charges against other respondents, meanwhile, were dismissed. – Rappler.com