Hontiveros: Suspension of gov’t execs over Pharmally scam ‘partial vindication’

Ryan Macasero

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Hontiveros: Suspension of gov’t execs over Pharmally scam ‘partial vindication’

SPECIAL COURT. File photo of the Office of the Ombudsman's building.

Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler

The Ombudsman orders preventive suspensions of 22 officials of the Department of Budget and Management and 8 others from the Department of Health

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Risa Hontiveros said that the preventive suspension of 33 government executives involved in the Pharmally controversy was a “partial vindication” for the public.

Pakiramdam nito partial vindication sa mga mamamayan na nagreklamo bakit ganito ang paggastos ng limitadong pandemic funds… para sa mga Pilipinong mamamayan at pasyente at healthcare providers. Vindication ito sa mga healthcare providers na nagreklamo bakit nahuhuli o wala pa rin yung kanilang special allowance at saka hazard pay samantalang nagtabo tabo ang kita ng mga favored company tulad ng Pharmally dahil sa influence peddling at dahil sa corruption,” Hontiveros said.

(I think this is a partial victory for the people who complained why our limited pandemic funds was spent this way… for the Filipino people, patients and healthcare providers. This is vindication for healthcare providers who complained why their special hazard pay has not been paid – or paid very late – while the favored companies such as Pharmally were earning because of influence peddling and corruption.)

“So it really feels like a very sweet initial victory, vindication, with the different stakeholders in the health sector and I’m only so glad and very grateful that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee was a part of this initial victory,” she added.

The Office of the Ombudsman suspended the government officials due to their involvement in the anomalous purchases of COVID-19 supplies from 2020 to 2021, said a report in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Ombudsman suspended 22 officials of the DBM, including Liong, and eight other officials of the Department of Health.

The suspension included overall deputy ombudsman Warren Rex Liong, a former lawyer of ex-president Rodrigo Duterte.

At the time of the purchase, Liong was a director at the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM). 

Former PS-DBM officer-in-charge Christopher Lao resigned from the DBM in 2020.

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A 2022 Senate blue ribbon committee report recommended the filing of graft and plunder complaints against those involved in the Pharmally deal.

Senator Koko Pimentel said of the Ombudsman’s suspension order, “I commend the Ombudsman for the actions he has taken. However, these are just ‘preventive suspensions’ which have a very specific purpose – to prevent those still in public office from influencing the ongoing investigation and case buildup.”

He added that the preventive suspension does not mean they’ve seen merit in the case.

Sa pagimpose ng preventive suspension, puwedeng wala pang nakita (With imposing preventive suspensions, it’s possible they found nothing). Although, as reported in the news, apparently, the Ombudsman has found the case to be very serious and the initial evidence credible and sufficient, that’s why he ordered the preventive suspension. This is the impression I get from reading the news report,” he added.

Hontiveros, meanwhile, told reporters on Thursday afternoon, she said she was hopeful that the Ombudsman would find enough merit in the complaint to file cases against those involved in the deals.

I really hope na makapag- case buildup talaga ang Office of the Ombudsman sa darating na kalahating taon ng imbestigasyon at kung sila talaga ay magkasala then mangyayari kung mapapatunayan sa korte, mangyayari po yung conviction,” she said.

(I really hope the Office of the Ombudsman is really building up a case in the coming half year-investigation and if they are really culpable, and if proven in court, they will be convicted) –

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Nobuhiko Matsunaka


Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at