Pharmally

Senate confronts Pharmally’s Mago after recanted testimony

Sofia Tomacruz
Senate confronts Pharmally’s Mago after recanted testimony

PRESENT. Former Pharmally representative Krizle Mago faces the Senate blue ribbon committee for the first time again on November 26, 2021.

Screenshot from Senate of the Philippines

'On the face of it, the credibility of practically all these people in Pharmally has really gone out of the window,' says Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Richard Gordon

Krizle Mago, the former corporate representative of controversial company Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation (PPC), faced the Senate blue ribbon committee for the first time again on Friday, November 26, where lawmakers grilled her for recanting the explosive testimony she previously made before the panel. 

Mago had run to the House of Representatives for protection after she admitted to senators in late September that Pharmally in effect swindled the government after it changed the expiry date of medical-grade face shields before delivery.

As she faced the Senate panel on Friday, lawmakers cut straight to the chase and spent over an hour questioning Mago on her decision to take back her startling testimony.

Ano ba talaga (What is it, really)?” committee chairman Richard Gordon said, telling Mago, “Remember, you perjured yourself when you did that.”

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‘We swindled gov’t’: Pharmally changed expiry date of medical-grade face shields

‘We swindled gov’t’: Pharmally changed expiry date of medical-grade face shields

Mago, however, said she stood by her statement issued at the House and that she had given a “pressured response” to the Senate panel. “I said my piece at the House of Representatives and I stand by my statement,” she said. 

In September, Mago had readily confirmed a warehouse staff’s testimony on the tampering of face shields without much need for prodding, telling the senators, “That is something I cannot deny.” When Gordon asked her if she believes Pharmally swindled the government, she quickly answered twice, saying “I believe so” first, and then “I believe that is the case.”

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was among lawmakers that extracted the statement from Mago, asked the former Pharmally official if she had indeed felt intimidated the last time she appeared at the Senate. Mago claimed to have felt pressure “for the whole investigation” and claimed she was anxious of the possibly of being cited in contempt if she became evasive. 

Lacson then replayed videos of his questioning, wherein Mago readily supplied Dargani’s name as among Pharmally managers that had ordered her to change the expiration dates of face shields. 

“You felt pressured so you did not tell the truth or you told the truth when you said that you were instructed by Mr. Mohit Dargani to change the stickers?” Lacson asked. 

Mago refused to answer and twice invoked her right agains self-incrimination. 

Gordon, however, warned Mago that “the load of evidence is against you” and advised her to answer the panel. To this, Mago replied that her answer citing Dargani was “inaccurate” and that it was “Pharmally management” who instructed her to change the expiration dates on face shields.

On Senate Minority leader Franklin Drillon’s questioning, Mago also clarified later on that Pharmally management included Dargani.

“Mr. Chairman, allow me to explain. The instructions came from PPC management, including Mr. Dargani,” she said.

Mago likewise confirmed to senators that she had spoken with Dargani after issuing her testimony at the Senate. Asked if she had been told to retract her statement, Mago said, “I cannot answer that question without seeking my legal counsel.”

Facts still stand

During the hearing, Lacson said that Mago’s responses at the Senate showed that she was not pressured to lie. 

“She said a while ago that she might be charged with perjury. In other words, she is pressured to tell the truth…. If it is true what she says that she was pressured, it does not appear that way as we showed in the video she was very calm,” Lacson said in a mix of English and Filipino

Senator Risa Hontiveros also noted that Mago had not been prompted to respond that the tampering of face shields “cannot be denied.” 

“To me, that stands and SP [Senate President Vicente Sotto III] said that all of that is of record here in the Senate,” Hontiveros said. 

This much Mago confirmed herself in the House, saying that while she did not instruct Pharmally warehouse employees to change the manufacture dates of face shields, she had directed them to “repack” the items. 

The process of repacking saw Pharmally warehouse staff discard damaged shields and combine face shields with new sets. “As a result of the merging, some certificates got mixed up while others were subsequently discarded as the staff only needed to choose one product certificate to include in the pack,” Mago said at the House. 

Despite changing the manufacture date from 2020 to 2021, Mago said at the time that the face shields still were not expired. Effectively, however, the manufacture dates – and therefore the expiration dates – were still changed.

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Pharmally still changed expiration dates despite Mago retracting

Pharmally still changed expiration dates despite Mago retracting
‘Why did you run?’

During the hearing, Drilon also asked Mago to explain why she decided to seek the protection of the House despite offers from the Senate to provide her with protection. 

Mago said, “I was able to compare the environment of investigations from the House of Representatives and the Senate and that is one of the reasons why I decided to go to the House of Representatives to give a proper statement.” 

The House had mostly been defending the Duterte government and downplaying the Senate’s probe. 

And why, Hontiveros asked Mago, did she decide to leave the House’s protection? 

“I was planning to go back to the province, to my family,” Mago said, breaking into tears. 

“You disappeared, you went to House, you disappeared, you appeared here again. Is there anything you want to tell us?” Hontiveros said in Filipino. 

Mago said there was nothing “for now.”

Senators then urged Mago to examine her position, cooperate with the probe, and be forthright with her answers as they cited her Catholic schooling. 

“To sin no more – thats the essence of confession,” Gordon said. 

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