Leni Robredo

Robredo on ‘unforgivable’ Pharmally scandal: ‘How do these people sleep at night?’

Mara Cepeda
Robredo on ‘unforgivable’ Pharmally scandal: ‘How do these people sleep at night?’

OPPOSITION LEADER. VP Leni Robredo virtually leads the OVP's budget presentation before the Senate finance committee on September 21, 2021.

Charlie Villegas/OVP

'Hindi talaga siya makatarungan,' says Vice President Leni Robredo of Pharmally's anomalous pandemic contracts
Robredo on ‘unforgivable’ Pharmally scandal: ‘How do these people sleep at night?’

Vice President Leni Robredo was appalled after an executive of the embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation embroiled in anomalous pandemic contracts admitted they had “swindled” President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

In her weekly DZXL radio show on Sunday, September 26, the Philippine opposition leader said corruption, especially at a time when people are dying due to the coronavirus crisis, is simply “unforgivable.”

‘Pag nanonood ako, Ka Ely, ang isip ko lang: Paano kaya nakakatulog sa gabi itong mga tao na ito? Na ang daming Pilipino ang naghihirap, ang naiisip pa nila dilihensiya?” Robredo told her co-anchor and broadcaster Ely Saludar. 

(Whenever I’m watching the hearings, Ka Ely, I keep on thinking: How do these people sleep at night? So many Filipinos are suffering, and yet all they can think about is extortion?)

“Hindi talaga siya makatarungan, Ka Ely. At a time na ang daming naghihirap, ito ang iniisip nyo?” she added. 

(It’s an injustice, Ka Ely. At a time when people are suffering, this is all you can think about?)

In a stunning admission before senators, Pharmally’s incorporator and regular affairs head Krizle Grace Mago said she was instructed to tell warehouse staff to change expiry dates on medical-grade face shields.

Asked by blue ribbon committee chairman and Senator Richard Gordon if by tampering with the production stickers of the face shields they “swindled the government,” Mago said, ”I believe that is the case.”

Pharmally, owned by a Singaporean wanted in Taiwan, is a small company with only  P625,000 in capital, yet it was 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. 

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.

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For Robredo, Pharmally’s schemes would not have been possible if they were not in collusion with government officials. 

She said the money that people likely earned from the Pharmally scandal could have been used to pay health workers and finance medical equipment of hospitals now overwhelmed by the more infectious COVID-19 Delta variant.

Hindi naman mangyayari itong Pharmally kung walang nakaupo na katulong. Ito yung pinakamasakit doon, Ka Ely. Ang dami na ‘yung kababayan natin yung namatay,” Robredo said. 

(This Pharmally scandal would not have happened without the help of government officials. This is what hurts the most, Ka Ely. So many of our countrymen are dying right now.)

“Kulang yung health workers sa hospital, kulang yung medical equipment. Itong kinita dito, kung doon napunta, ‘di ang dami sanang buhay ang nasalba,” she added. 

(We have a lack of health workers in hospitals and our medical equipment is not enough. If the profits from this had gone to the healthcare system instead, then so many lives would have been saved.)

Despite the glaring evidence being uncovered by senators during the Pharmally hearings, Duterte continues to protect Yang, Lao, and Go. The President has since directed his wrath at the Senate and Gordon, the man leading the investigation who has described Duterte as a “cheap politician.” – 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.