MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Wednesday said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is "forced to conclude" that President Rodrigo Duterte was "aware of, allowed and condoned" the procurement of what it says are overpriced pandemic-related supplies from a firm linked with his former economic adviser.
Duterte repeatedly defended several officials involved in the awarding of the billions-worth of procurement deals to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., said Gordon, who led 18 Senate Blue Ribbon hearings on the controversy.
The committee, in a partial report of its findings, described Pharmally as "an unqualified, undercapitalized company" that was assisted by China-based businessman Michael Yang, the president's former economic adviser.
"Napakahirap tanggapin na ang Pangulong Duterte ay walang kamuwang-muwang sa mga nangyayari, that he is oblivious to what transpired," the senator said.
(It is hard to accept that President Duterte was clueless about what was happening, that he is oblivious to what transpired.)
"All of the government officials who approved the transactions are presidential appointees," he said.
Gordon noted that Duterte even went out of his way to defend those involved in the allegedly anomalous deals.
"When the anomalies were brought to light in the Senate, the President, instead of going to the bottom of the situation and finding those responsible... ay talagang naghasik ng pagmumura at pananakot (He really went out of his way to curse and threaten people)... and committed grave abuse of power," the senator said in an online press conference.
"Talagang diniscourage niya ang tao at tinira-tira niya ang Commission on Audit (He really discouraged people and criticized the Commission on Audit)... He repeatedly, publicly protected those close to him who were found to have a hand [in the deals]."
Gordon was among those who were publicly cursed by Duterte for investigating why and how a two-year firm with about P600,000 in capital managed to get billions worth of contracts from the government.
Duterte had said he will personally campaign against Gordon, and called the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's investigation a "waste of time."
"Kung nanahimik na lang sana ay okay na... Pero talagang may tinatago at may pinagtatanggol," said Gordon, who is seeking a reelection in May..
(It would have been okay if he kept quiet... But he is really hiding and protecting something.)
"This forces us to conclude that he was aware of, allowed and condoned... Pinabayaan niya, tinolerate niya (he permitted, he tolerated) the misdeeds of his closest associates and appointees," Gordon said.
Duterte had said the Pharmally deals were above board, even as he told senators they can "crumple" the firm.
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, in its partial 113-page report, said Duterte "betrayed public trust" when he defended personalities "close to him" who are also linked in the deals.
"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, under capitalized company," the preliminary report signed by committee chairman Sen. Richard Gordon read.
The report, however, has yet to be signed by majority of the Committee members.
"Alam ko naman na ginagapang ang ibang senador," Gordon said.
(I know that some senators are having some negotiations.)
"I hope hindi mahahati ang Senado. It will be tragic kung mahahati ang Senado based on partyline basis," he said.
(I hope the Senate will not be divided. It will be tragic if the Senate will be divided based on partylines.)
So far, five Committee members have promised to sign the report, Gordon said.
"Siyempre nag-aalangan yung iba dahil presidente ang kausap. Siyempre, may mga pinagsamahan din sila," he said, without mentioning particular lawmakers.
(Of course, some are hesitant to sign because we are talking about the President. Of course, they also have some ties with the President.)
"I hope they make the choice based on their duty and not on their friendship," said Gordon.
Private individuals can use the report, once adopted by the Senate, as basis for filing cases, Gordon said.
"It's about time our people wake up. They can file the case," he said.
"The president must be held accountable."