MANILA — Government on Wednesday rejected insinuation of corruption in the procurement of allegedly overpriced medical supplies for the COVID-19 pandemic, which is facing Senate scrutiny.
Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp, which bagged some P8.68 billion worth of deals for pandemic response last year, has ties to Michael Yang, a former adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The personal protective equipment that government bought from the firm at P1,700 each were full sets, medical-grade, and heat sealed, said Carlito Galvez, head of the National Task Force on COVID-19.
The government needed 600,000 to 1 million pieces of PPE to be delivered in 2 to 3 days that time, he said in a Malacañang press briefing.
"Ultimately, it's the price and the specification that matters. Sa presyo po ang labanan, kahit sino ka man," said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
"Unfortunately, wala pong ibang kompanya makakabigay ng [P1,700]... Wala pong kinalaman ang mga personalidad, ang tiningnan presyo at saka kalidad," he said in the same briefing.
(The fight was in terms of price, whoever you are. Unfortunately, no other company was able to give P1,700. The personalities had no connection, what we looked at were price and quality.)
Addressing insinuations of corruption in the deal, Galvez added, "Ang aming objective is to save lives, not to make money. Very callous ‘yong ano na ganyan."
Video courtesy of PTV
Pharmally was only incorporated in 2019 with a P599,000 capital. Some lawmakers questioned why it bagged billions in government deals with no track record of delivering quality and reasonably-priced materials.
Roque noted regular procurement has 2 stages, including pre-qualification that covers a firm's capital, and then the bid itself. But he said Pharmally went through a different process under emergency bidding.
"Naka-deliver naman sila e... Siguro ko po kung hindi naka-deliver, puwedeng magreklamo," added the official
(They delivered. Perhaps if they failed to deliver, we can complain.)
Duterte on Monday unleashed personal insults and accusations of politicking against Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon, who are leading the investigation into the Pharmally deals.
Lacson said the Senate "will not flinch" in its inquiry, while Gordon, who heads the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said the investigation may lead to President Rodrigo Duterte and his longtime aide Sen. Christopher Go.
A 2017 Malacañang video also showed Yang introducing Duterte to Pharmally officials.
Pharmally is supposedly linked to Yang’s network through one of its owners, Singaporean Huang Tzu Yen, who sits as a director in another company, along with 2 other associates of Yang.
Asked if Duterte would cooperate if the Senate probe eventually involved him, Roque replied, "Unang-una po, wala pong ebidensya ng overpricing."
"Kung meron po at meron talagang ebidensya ng korapsyon, hindi na kinakailangan ng Senate investigation. Sisibakin na po ‘yan ni Presidente," he continued.
(First of all there is no evidence of overpricing. If there was evidence of this and corruption, a Senate investigation will be unnecessary. The President will fire those involved immediately.)