Senate of the Philippines

Senators not surprised with Mago recanting testimony: ‘She made a deal with the devil’

Mara Cepeda
Senators not surprised with Mago recanting testimony: ‘She made a deal with the devil’

FACING THE HOUSE. Krizle Mago, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation’s former main point person to government projects appears at the House of Representatives on October 4, 2021.

Screenshot from House of Representatives

'What do you expect? She has been taken into the bosom of Pharmally and interests protective of the administration's interest, no matter how vile,' says Senator Richard Gordon

Several senators were disappointed but not surprised when Krizle Mago of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation withdrew her explosive testimony on expired face shields that she had made before the Senate blue ribbon committee. 

Senator Richard Gordon, Senate blue ribbon committee chairman, said on Monday, October 4, that he had expected this when Mago was suddenly placed under the protective custody of the House of Representatives after days of being “incommunicado” with the Senate. 

“That she recanted? What do you expect? She has been taken into the bosom of Pharmally and interests protective of the administration’s interest, no matter how vile. Nakipagyakapan na siya [sa] demonyo. Makakawala pa ba iyan (She made a deal with the devil. Can she even escape now)?” said Gordon.

The House is dominated by administration allies.

On September 24, Mago made a stunning admission before the Senate blue ribbon committee that she was instructed to tell warehouse staff to change expiry dates on face shields that Pharmally sold to President Rodrigo Duterte’s government. 

When Gordon asked her at the time if she believed that her company had swindled the government, she said she believed such was the case. Mago then broke contact with the Senate panel for days, eventually surfacing as a witness under the protective custody of the House.

The lower chamber has been criticized for using its own Pharmally hearings to defend the Duterte administration instead of building on the Senate findings. 

Facing House members on Monday, Mago recanted her damning Senate testimony and claimed it was a “pressured response.”

But Gordon countered this, saying senators’ questions to Mago were asked in a “calm and very measured manner.”

Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon also said Mago’s statement was “spontaneous, with no trace of any ‘pressure’ being exerted.”

“The statement was on video, under oath. Note that she did not deny making the statement that the government was swindled. Her statement that ‘she’s not in the best frame of mind to think clearly’ is totally self-serving, and does not have any value and cannot be corroborated,” Drilon said. 

Who’s really pressuring Mago?

Senator Risa Hontiveros said if there was anyone putting pressure on Mago, it’s probably the powers that be who are embroiled in the Pharmally scandal.

“Pressured response?  It is sad that Ms. Mago feels this way. Telling the truth is a relief. The greatest pressure is to lie. Ngunit naniniwala akong lalabas at lalabas ang katotohanan. Sana lang, sa huli, manaig ang kanyang konsensya (I believe the truth will eventually come out. I just hope that in the end, her conscience would prevail), ” Hontiveros said. 

Senator Kiko Pangilinan even went as far as describing Mago as a “rehearsed witness” of the House. 

“Iisa ang layunin niya at ang mga opisyal ng Pharmally at pati si Michael Yang: Ang magsinungaling at magkabalubaluktot ang testimonya kahit huling-huli na,” said Pangilinan.

(She, the other Pharmally officials, and Michael Yang have one goal: To lie and twist their testimonies even if they have been caught red-handed.)

Pharmally is a small company with only  P625,000 in capital. But it was still 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 , Senator Bong Go, when the latter was still with the Presidential Management Staff, but Go denied that Lao was his protegé. – 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.