MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to "find what’s wrong with" senators looking into the alleged overpricing in the government's pandemic response deals, which he insisted were legal.
Duterte said senators were "zeroing now" on his former adviser Michael Yang and his alleged ties to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp., which supplied the government allegedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields.
"If there was an order, and the order was delivered, and the product was found to be as specified, then we pay, ewan ko kung ano pang hinahanap nito? Why go into the bagay?" Duterte said in a taped speech that aired on Saturday.
(I do not know what else they are looking for here. Why go into the thing?)
"We will not want to control them (senators), but we would like also to just criticize them for alam mo wala kayong nakukuha d’yan, you want a fishing expedition," he added.
(You know you won't get anything from there.)
Addressing senators, Duterte warned, "Ganito na lang ang laro natin (this will be our game), you find your fault in us, and we will find what’s wrong with you."
"I'll begin first with Sen. [Richard] Gordon," he said, referring to the chairperson of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee heading the probe.
"I am sure I will find plenty," added the President.
Gordon has spoken of eyeing the presidency and could potentially be among opponents of the ruling PDP-Laban's ticket for 2022, where Duterte is running for Vice President.
Duterte in the same speech warned the Commission on Audit it would commit "dereliction of duty" if it does not look into the finances of the Philippine Red Cross, a non-government organization chaired by Gordon.
The COA had earlier said it does not have jurisdiction over the Red Cross.
Video courtesy of PTV
DUTERTE ATTACKS DRILON
Duterte also brought up Sen. Franklin Drilon's years-old photos with Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains of a multibillion-peso scam that funneled the lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to bogus NGOs.
"How did you end up partying in Heritage Park in Taguig with Napoles and odd people... Can you call that a perfect coincidence?" he asked the lawmaker.
Duterte said Drilon should also "explain your connection" with former Iloilo Mayor Jed Mabilog and former general Marcelo Garbo Jr., both of whom the President earlier accused of ties to the narcotics trade.
The President also told Drilon to disclose who owns the biggest mall in Iloilo and who brokered the sale of the city's old airport to a firm.
"We will not be distracted. We will not let distractions and disinformation prevail. All I heard is old news – the Napoles issue, Mayor Mabilog and Gen. Garbo," said Drilon.
The old Iloilo airport "was sold through a public bidding at P1.2 billion set by the Privatization Council then headed by the late Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales in 2007," Drilon said in a statement.
He said the government’s Privatization Council at the time "can very well explain this to the President."
"The site of the old airport represents now a booming Iloilo City. It is also where we built the Iloilo Convention Center. In case the President mentions it in the future, the Ombudsman had investigated it and found no corruption," said Drilon.
"The only other person who has accused me of corruption is now a fugitive from justice - having been found guilty by the Supreme Court of libel," added the senator.
"I do not have to defend what I did in Iloilo. Mr. President, ask the people of Iloilo," he continued.
He said former Mayor Jed Mabilog "is a distant relative, being a second cousin."
"I cannot comprehend why the President wanted me to explain my connection with former Mayor Jed Mabilog and Gen. Garbo. But what I can say is, there is not an iota of evidence that will link my name to illegal drugs," Drilon said.
"If all these malicious attacks are the price we have to pay for exposing the truth, then be it. We will face them," he said.
DUTERTE, YANG, PHARMALLY
Duterte said senators are scrutinizing the technical and financial requirements of Pharmally when, "Wala ka namang pakialam d'yan."
(You have nothing to do with that.)
Senators have questioned why Pharmally - a company incorporated in 2019 with a P599,000 capital - was awarded P8.6 billion in government contracts when it had no track record of delivering quality and reasonably-priced materials.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros alleged 2 officials of Pharmally were wanted for alleged fraud, embezzlement and stock manipulation in Taiwan.
A 2017 Malacañang video also showed Yang introducing the President to Pharmally officials.
Duterte said he has known Yang, a Davao-based businessman, for around 20 years. He said he tapped Yang when he initially "made contacts with the Chinese."
"Siyempre may negosyo, nakikisali, negosyante e. Ano mang magawa mo?" the President said.
(Of course, there's business, he joined, he's a businessman. What can you do?)
"Iyang Pharmally, what is clear is there was this contract, there was delivery, kumpleto lahat, specifications as to quantity, quality, and all. Tapos after delivery bago pa nagbayad ang Pilipinas," he added.
(That Pharmally, what is clear is there was this contract, there was delivery, everything was complete and followed specifications as to quantity, quality, and all. The Philippines paid after the delivery was completed.)
Senators on Thursday cited in contempt and moved for the arrest of Yang and Pharmally executive Linconn Ong for evading questions on the firm's government deals.