Senate of the Philippines

Unlike House, Senate panel wants cases vs Yang, Lao, Duque over Pharmally

Mara Cepeda
Unlike House, Senate panel wants cases vs Yang, Lao, Duque over Pharmally

PHARMALLY SCANDAL. President Rodrigo Duterte's former economic adviser Michael Yang during the House good government and public accountability hearing on September 20, 2021.

Rappler screenshot

The lawyer of President Rodrigo Duterte's ex-economic adviser Michael Yang says the partial Senate panel report has 'no legal nor factual basis'

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate blue ribbon committee is recommending the filing of multiple criminal complaints – including graft and plunder – against President Rodrigo Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang, and government officials and executives linked to the pandemic deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.

In the 113-page partial report publicized by committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon on Tuesday, February 1, the blue ribbon panel said the following individuals violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to the role they played in the Pharmally scandal:

  • Michael Yang, Pharmally’s financier and guarantor, linked to drugs
  • Huang Tzu Yen, Pharmally chairman and president
  • Twinkle Dargani, Pharmally president
  • Mohit Dargani, Pharmally corporate secretary and treasurer
  • Linconn Ong, Pharmally director
  • Krizle Grace Mago, former Pharmally corporate representative
  • Lin Weixiong, Yang’s business associate linked to drugs
  • Francisco Duque III, Department of Health (DOH) secretary
  • Lloyd Christopher Lao, former chief of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM)
  • Warren Rex Liong, former PS-DBM director
  • Dickson Panti, PS-DBM official

The panel also recommended the filing of plunder complaints against Yang, Huang, Lin, Duque, Lao, the Dargani siblings, Ong, Liong, and Mago. 

Senators believe Chinese businessmen Yang, Lin, and Qing Jin Ke of Pharmally supplier Tigerphil Marketing Corporation should also be deported. 

The committee likewise recommended the filing of estafa, fraud, perjury, falsification of public documents, and tax evasion complaints against several of these Pharmally-linked personalities. 

“The Senate protected healthcare workers, but discovered that the public funds are plundered as the Filipino people struggle in [their] fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” read the executive summary of the partial report.

“Instead of ensuring that crucial supplies were made available, the public servants who were supposed to be responsible for the people’s welfare lined their pockets, acquiring grossly overpriced equipment for stockpiling, favoring an unqualified, undercapitalized company, which was exceedingly assisted by the foreign citizen presidential adviser on the economy who turned out to be so influential in the critical acquisition of supplies favoring his supplier-friends abroad,” the report added.

The Senate blue ribbon committee hearings uncovered that Pharmally cornered P10 billion in pandemic deals between 2020 and 2021 despite being a small, newly created firm that lacked the funds, track record, and credibility to handle big-ticket government procurement. 

A Rappler investigation also revealed that Yang has links to Pharmally through a network of companies that thrived during Duterte’s term. Pharmally officials said Yang was their financier and guarantor, although he denied this.

An independent analysis of Pharmally’s financial records pointed to P6.3 billion in tax deficiencies owed to the Philippine government.

The blue ribbon committee’s partial findings are a far cry from the report of its counterpart panel in the Duterte-controlled House. The House committee on good government and public accountability spared Yang and instead pinned the blame on Pharmally executives alone.

Unlike House, Senate panel wants cases vs Yang, Lao, Duque over Pharmally

Yang’s lawyer Raymond Fortun slammed the blue ribbon committee’s report.

“The conclusions in the report have no legal nor factual basis, done not in aid of legislation but solely for reelection. Mr. Yang looks forward to the report being handled by an impartial investigation body that would decide the case based on actual evidence instead of hallucinations,” said Fortun in a message shared to reporters.

Senators’ hard-hitting questions during the Pharmally hearings drew Duterte’s ire, prompting him to bar government officials from participating in the inquiry.

This sparked a clash between the executive and legislative branches, with senators going all the way to the Supreme Court to challenge Duterte’s order. 

The blue ribbon panel believes complaints should also be pursued against Duterte himself for allegedly not doing enough to hold the embroiled officials accountable. The committee, however, said the filing of such complaints should be considered only when the President’s term ends in June, as he is still immune from suit. 

Aside from Gordon, no other senator had signed the blue ribbon committee’s partial report when it was circulated to the media on Tuesday. Several committee members like Senator Risa Hontiveros have received their copy, but they are still reviewing it as of posting. 

A majority of the blue ribbon committee members must sign the report for it to be officially filed and endorsed to the Senate plenary.

Read a copy of the blue ribbon committee’s partial report on the Pharmally scandal below.

– Rappler.com

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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.