Pharmally

Pharmally’s Ong distances self from the comments of his lawyer on Senate probe

Sofia Tomacruz
Pharmally’s Ong distances self from the comments of his lawyer on Senate probe

'NO DISRESPECT.' Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. Director Linconn Ong awaits at the Senate committee room during Thursday’s virtual hearing of the Blue Ribbon Committee, September 30, 2021, on the alleged anomalies in the purchase of face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment.

Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

Members of the Senate blue ribbon committee blast lawyer Ferdinand Topacio's comments against minority Senator Risa Hontiveros where he suggested she 'put a sock [in] her mouth'

With his lawyer railing at the Senate blue ribbon committee, Linconn Ong, director of the embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, distanced himself from comments made by his own legal counsel against a member of the panel. 

During the Senate’s 15th hearing on alleged corruption in the Duterte administration’s pandemic response on Friday, November 26, minority Senator Risa Hontiveros raised lawyer Ferdinand Topacio’s comments against her.

Topacio, quoted by ANC, had reacted to Hontiveros’ statements on siblings and Pharmally executives’ Mohit and Twinkle Dargani’s arrest onboard a private plane bound for Malaysia. Topacio accused the senator of using the issue in line with the upcoming election season.

Instead of touching on the actions of the Dargani siblings, Topacio said Hontiveros should file a case with the Bureau of Internal Revenue, “otherwise she should put a sock [in] her mouth.”

Napakabastos (Extremely rude),” Hontiveros said, adding the statement was unacceptable for a member for the bar. 

Confronted with Topacio’s statements, Ong apologized to Hontiveros and said he would speak with his lawyer. 

“I just want to say that all those things he said, I think he’s very entitled to his own opinion but I would never – personally, I will never do anything to disrespect the committee, the senators, or to the authority. I just want to put that on record,” Ong said. 

Hontiveros added in Filipino, “Imagine if attorney Topacio can say something that disrespectful to senator of the republic, what more our other countrymen?”

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Seantors Richard Gordon and Francis Pangilinan had also called out Topacio. Pangilinan raised the prospect of including in the committee’s report suggestions to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to consider disciplinary actions. 

Gordon said he would accept such a proposal, but added that Topacio would only use it to gain more media mileage. 

“He’s just living according to his nature. I don’t want to insult anybody but its so sad because we all studied law and there is such a thing as ethics of a lawyer,” Gordon said. 

During the hearing, Gordon also called out Ong for smuggling a phone into the Senate’s compound where he has been detained for weeks after the panel cited him in contempt for his evasive responses during the course of the committee’s hearings. 

Ong apologized to the lawmaker, saying it was a “survival instinct” because he missed his family. 

Topacio earlier called the Senate blue ribbon’s hearing a “kangaroo forum,” saying lawmakers were not out to get the truth but were instead out “for blood.” 

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).

Senators have been ramping up scrutiny of its potential tax liabilities, although its probe has been hindered by a standing order from President Rodrigo Duterte barring officials from the executive branch from attending the hearing, and the refusal of the Darganis to submit subpoenaed documents. – Rappler.com

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

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.