Pharmally

Pharmally exec Linconn Ong declines executive session with senators

Mara Cepeda
Pharmally exec Linconn Ong declines executive session with senators

NO TO EXECUTIVE SESSION. Members of the Office of the Sergeant-At-Arms escort Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation executive Linconn Ong inside the Senate building on September 21, 2021.

Senate PRIB

Pharmally director Linconn Ong is now being represented by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who says the panel is a 'kangaroo forum'

Linconn Ong, director of the embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation embroiled in questionable pandemic deals, backed out from meeting senators in an executive session or closed doors.

In a handwritten note shared to reporters on Monday, September 27, Ong told the Senate blue ribbon committee he is declining the executive session first offered to him by Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon during the last hearing on Friday, September 24. 

Ong would have been able to disclose more details about the Pharmally scandal to senators without the public’s knowledge had he agreed to meet the legislators in private.

“To the honorable blue ribbon committee, I regret to inform you that, acting upon the advise of [my] counsel, I’m declining your kind invitation for me to participate in the executive session regarding the matter under investigation,” Ong said. 

It was Ong who earlier admitted to senators that Chinese businessman Michael Yang, President Rodrigo Duterte’s former economic adviser, was the financier and guarantor of Pharmally.

But the blue ribbon panel cited Ong in contempt for a third time on Friday due to his flip-flopping answers on the Duterte government’s contracts with Pharmally. 

Ong was supposed to be transferred to the Pasay City Jail, but this was deferred pending his decision on the executive session offer. 

Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon said Ong is currently in a safe house under the custody of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. 

Ong’s lawyer: Topacio

The Pharmally executive is now being represented by lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who believes the Senate panel is not being fair to his client. 

“This is a kangaroo forum. The blue ribbon, not all ha? Some members of the blue ribbon committee are not out to get the truth. They’re out for blood. Kaya naman unfair sa kliyente ko kung siya ang gagawing pawn, gagawing sacrificial lamb para makakuha ng dugo (That’s why it’s unfair for my client if he would become a pawn, the sacrificial lamb just so they can draw blood),” Topacio told reporters. 

Senate President Vicente Sotto III defended the chamber.

“Never threaten or call the Senate names! What do they expect by threatening the Senate? That we roll over and die? Will never happen!” Sotto said. 

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

It was former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao who signed PS-DBM’s contracts with Pharmally. Lao used to work under Duterte’s longtime aide turned senator Bong Go when the latter was still with the Presidential Management Staff, but Go denies Lao is his protegé.

Another Pharmally executive, incorporator and regular affairs head Krizle Grace Mago, made the stunning admission before senators that she was instructed to tell warehouse staff to change expiry dates on medical-grade face shields. 

The blue ribbon committee is now having difficulties reaching her– 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.