Executives of Pharmally International Holding Company and a business associate of Michael Yang, a former economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte, are on the run from the Taiwan government, opposition senator Risa Hontiveros said on Wednesday, September 1.
Hontiveros, in a press conference, showed news clips and screenshots from Taiwan's Ministry of Justice website showing how Huang Wen Lie, his son Huang Tzu Yen, and Yang's business associate Zheng Bingqiang are wanted for a variety of alleged financial crimes.
Huang Wen Lie, also known as Tony Huang, is wanted for securities fraud, embezzlement, and stock manipulation. He is the chairman of Pharmally International Holding Company and was present in a March 2017 meeting with Duterte and Yang in Davao City.
His son, Huang Tzu Yen, is wanted for stock manipulation, Hontiveros said, showing a screenshot from the Taiwan Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau website. He is co-owner of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, the firm that got the biggest pandemic supply contracts from the Duterte administration.
Hontiveros noted that Huang had been wanted in Taiwan since December 29, 2020, yet the Philippine government still signed off on a purchase order with his company last June.
Meanwhile, an arrest warrant is also out for Zheng Bingqiang for alleged involvement in Huang Wen Lie's alleged stock manipulation scheme, based again on Taiwan's investigation bureau website.
Zheng is a close business associate of Yang, and has been identified in Chinese news websites as president of Fu De Sheng Group, where Yang himself sits as chairman.
"Why is this government transacting with fugitives? Bakit tayo nakikipag-negosyo sa mga taong may warrant of arrest pa nga sa ibang bansa?... Napunta ba sa isang embezzler, isang estafador ang COVID funds?" Hontiveros asked.
(Why is this government transacting with fugitives? Why are we doing business with people who have warrants of arrest in another country?... Did our COVID funds go to an embezzler, to a swindler?)
As previously reported by Rappler, Zheng was present when Yang toured Duterte in Fu De Sheng's office in Xiamen, China, in 2015.
Zheng was also present at the March 2017 meeting of Duterte and Yang with Pharmally International Holding Company executives.
A Rappler investigation showed how Yang is connected to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, the firm that got P8.7 billion worth of pandemic supply contracts.
Many of the contracts and purchase orders greenlighting these procurements were signed by embattled former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who used to work under Senator Bong Go when the latter was still a Palace official.
Duterte, on Tuesday, defended Lao and Yang. The President said Yang was the "entry" point of Chinese businessmen hoping to make investments in the Philippines. Duterte, however, did not explain if Yang's influence as his former economic adviser had led to the government awarding multi-billion contracts to firms he is linked to.
Hontiveros called on Duterte to stop protecting these Chinese businessmen given the alleged multiple anomalies being uncovered by Senate blue ribbon committee investigating the government's pandemic funds spending.
She said that investors should bring in money to the Philippines.
"Mga seryosong issue ito na dapat tumulong at hindi mag-evade at mag-obfuscate si Pangulong Duterte... Gusto natin ng investors, pero anong klaseng investors? Investors ba? Parang tayo pa ang nawalan ng pera eh," Hontiveros said.
(These are serious issues and President Duterte should answer them, not evade questions... We want investors, but what kind? Are they really investors? Because it seems we are the ones who lost money here.)
The opposition senator believes that the findings of the Senate blue ribbon panel, so far, are just the tip of the iceberg.
The President had slammed the Senate hearing as full of “malice” and warned that he would order government officials to either skip hearings or refuse to answer senators’ questions – even though investigating questionable government deals is part of the Senate's mandate.
Hontiveros said senators are undeterred by Duterte's tirades.
"Gagawa at gagawa kami ng paraan para singilin ang mga dapat managot.... Hindi kami Senado for nothing. Alam namin ang aming responsibilidad na gawin ang mga ito," said Hontiveros.
(We will keep on finding ways to seek accountability from the people who should be held liable.... We are not the Senate for nothing. We know that it's our responsibility to do this.)
The Senate blue ribbon committee is set to resume its investigation on Tuesday, September 7. – with reports from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.