Pharmally

Grilled over stock investments, Pharmally’s Dargani invokes right to remain silent

Mara Cepeda
Grilled over stock investments, Pharmally’s Dargani invokes right to remain silent

Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation corporate secretary and treasurer Mohit Dargani speaks during the Senate blue ribbon hearing on October 5, 2021.

Screenshot from the Senate of the Philippines' Youtube account

This is not the first time for Pharmally executives and government officials embroiled in the pandemic contracts scandal try to hide behind privacy and secrecy laws

Mohit Dargani, an executive of the country’s biggest pandemic deals supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, invoked his right to remain silent during a Senate probe when grilled over his stock investments.

On Tuesday, October 5, Senate blue ribbon committee chairman and Senator Richard Gordon zeroed in on Dargani’s stock investments as the panel resumed its investigation on the anomalies hounding Pharmally’s contracts with President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. 

It was Dargani himself who brought up that he used to invest in stocks after Gordon asked him whose idea it was among the businessmen behind Pharmally to begin transacting with the government.

Dargani first said the idea came from Linconn Ong, Pharmally director who is now under arrest by the Senate due to his flip-flopping statements in past hearings. 

“I was really more on invested on stocks, the stock market. That’s really what I was doing. And if there’s any projects that I can do, then I would act as a project manager,” said Dargani, Pharmally’s corporate secretary and treasurer.

But when Gordon asked him for the amount he has invested in stocks, Dargani became defensive. 

“I invoke my right against self-incrimination… It’s private, Mr. Chairman. It’s private, sorry,” said Dargani. 

This was unacceptable for Gordon, arguing Dargani cannot use privacy as an excuse when Pharmally’s dealings with the Duterte government has reached as much as P10 billion. 

In a previous hearing, Gordon showed documents proving Dargani and other Pharmally officials were able to purchase of luxury cars after bagging government contracts.

“No, we do not accept that here. You have to show me the connection. What is private about that? You mean to tell me, you’re willing to dupe the government and then say it’s a private transaction?” asked Gordon.

It was this point during the hearing that Gordon and Dargani started talking over each other, with the Pharmally executive criticizing the Senate panel for painting them as “plunderers.”

“That’s the thing: We’re painted as liars, plunderers, scammers,” said a visibly irked Dargani. He also said Gordon was pressuring him with the senators’ line of questioning on Tuesday.

Gordon, however, said Dargani has only himself to blame because he is evading the truth.

“You’re the one pressuring yourself! You do not want to answer the question! If you don’t want to answer the question, we’re going to keep on asking the questions,” Gordon said. 

Hiding behind the law?

This is not the first time that Pharmally executives and Duterte government officials embroiled in the pandemic contracts scandal tried to invoke privacy and secrecy laws during the Senate hearings.

It was tax chief Caesar Dulay who actually first invoked secrecy laws, saying he cannot publicly disclose Pharmally’s tax records.

On September 24, by the end of a long hearing where Pharmally executive Krizle Mago made the startling (but now retracted) admission of swindling the government, senators began asking Pharmally chairman and CEO Huang Tzu Yen about his life savings in a Singapore bank.

He said these were used to fund some of the million peso projects. For Gordon, however, this must mean that Huang “is not without friends in Singapore.” 

By the next hearing, Twinkle Dargani, Mohit’s sister, started invoking the data privacy, bank secrecy, and corporation confidentiality laws when Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon pressed her for proof of Pharmally’s cost of sales.

Bank officials summoned to that hearing to shed light on Huang’s bank accounts also did not offer much information because they are bound by bank secrecy.

Pharmally director Ong also invoked the same laws on Tuesday. 

The blue ribbon committee is currently investigating the various red flags that have been raised over the government contracts cornered by Pharmally.

Pharmally is a small company with only P625,000 in capital but was somehow awarded the most pandemic contracts worth P10 billion, courtesy of the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

The Senate hearings have revealed that to cope with their contracts, Pharmally would be financed and guaranteed to their Chinese suppliers by Michael Yang, former economic adviser to Duterte. – with reports from Lian Buan/Rappler.com

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.