DOJ issues immigration lookout order vs Michael Yang

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 14 2021 07:49 PM | Updated as of Sep 14 2021 08:29 PM

MANILA - An immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) has been issued against former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday.

Guevarra earlier in the day said an ILBO, which is not a hold departure order but only requires immigration officials to inform the Justice secretary if the subject attempts to leave the country through airports or seaports, will be issued against Yang, also known as Yang Hong Ming, upon the request of Senator Richard Gordon.

Yang, a Davao-based businessman, is among personalities senators want to ask questions about the government's transactions with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp for the procurement last year of pandemic response supplies. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, which Gordon chairs, is conducting the probe.

"In view of the gravity of the matters subject of investigation as the issue involved is of national interest, and the possibility that Mr. Yang may attempt to place himself beyond the reach of the legal processes by leaving the country, this Department deems the issuance of an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against him prudent," the order read.

"It should be noted, however, that an ILBO is for monitoring purposes only and it is not, in and of itself, a sufficient prohibition for a subject's departure from the Philippines," it added.

Yang is reportedly staying at the Dusit Hotel in Davao City.

The agency had also issued an ILBO against former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao and seven others who are also part of the Senate probe, following the request of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

The seven are the following:

- Atty. Warren Rex Liong
- Twinkle Dargani
- Huang Tzu Yen
- Krizle Grace Mago
- Justine Garado
- Linconn Ong
- Mohit Dargani

Lao was in charge of the allegedly anomalous and overpriced procurement contracts with Pharmally.

Liong is a former director at the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) and now Overall Deputy Ombudsman, while the six others in the list are executives of Pharmally, some of whom are already outside the country.

Some senators had found the answers of Pharmally executives at the Blue Ribbon hearing "evasive".

"The (Bureau of Immigration) will make the proper arrangements for monitoring the subject's travel movements abroad," Guevarra said as regards Pharmally executives who are outside the country.

YANG'S ABSENCE AT SENATE HEARING

Yang had skipped a Senate hearing on Monday, where he was expected to answer lawmakers' questions about his involvement in the allegedly questionable transactions of Pharmally with the DBM-PS.

He earlier denied he had any involvement with Pharmally's deals, but officials of the company later said he helped finance the procurement of several pandemic supplies.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee formally asked the DOJ to place Yang either on the Immigration' hold departure order, watchlist or lookout bulletin, whichever is appropriate, in case the businessman tries to flee the country in the middle of congressional investigations.

"We would like to request the Mr. Michael Yang aka Yang Hong Ming, former Presidential Economic Adviser, be placed on the Bureau of Immigration Hold Departure Order, Watchlist or Lookout Bulletin, whichever is appropriate," Gordon said in a letter dated Sept. 13.

Gordon also asked the DOJ "that the Committee be informed whenever he is about to leave."

While Yang said he was willing to cooperate with the Blue Ribbon investigation, the businessman disobeyed the panel's directive to attend its Sept. 13 hearing.

Yang was advised by his doctor to take a 5-day bed rest due to hypertension, his legal counsel told senators.

TRANSACTION WITH PHARMALLY

The Senate probe last week revealed Pharmally did not have enough funds to purchase the billions worth of medical supplies it undertook to provide the Philippine government at the height of the pandemic last year.

Instead, it had to borrow funds from Yang, who also acted as guarantor of Pharmally to Chinese suppliers.

On Monday, a former DBM-PS official testified they signed inspection documents before any actual inspection or delivery of items could be made so that the Philippine government can already pay Chinese suppliers.

Lao had previously insisted that the DBM-PS did not make advance payments and only paid contractors upon delivery of the medical supplies.

A procurement specialist told ANC on Monday that Pharmally’s admissions could lead to possible corruption charges if it can be proven that the firm was favored despite not being financially capable to meet the demands of the contracts with only P600,000 in cash by end of 2019.

Its financial statements did not indicate any loans or letters of credit to guarantee it could deliver on its obligations. Ong confirmed Friday they did not secure letters of credit.

Lawyer Zoilo Andin, Jr. said that corruption charges may prosper if it can be shown there was manifest impartiality in favor of Pharmally and damage resulted to the Philippine government when it bought allegedly overpriced medical supplies from Pharmally while other domestic suppliers could offer it at half the price or less.

Pharmally sold face masks at up to P27 per piece when a local supplier sold it at P13.50. 

Pharmally also sold face shields at P120 per piece when the Philippine Red Cross was able to buy them at P50 each during the same period last year.

While President Rodrigo Duterte maintained there was no overpricing in the administration's procurement of pandemic supplies, he said in a taped public address that was aired Tuesday he does not care if the Senate "crumpled" Pharmally.

"Para sa akin, tapos na kami. Iyang Pharmally ninyo, pati droga, bahala kayo, wala akong pakialam n'yang Pharmally... You can crumple Pharmally, wala kaming pakialam d'yan," Duterte said. 

(For me, we are done. That Pharmally of yours and the drugs, that's on you, I do not care about that Pharmally. You can crumple Pharmally, we do not care about that.)

"Ang pakialam namin, nag-order kami, dumating, tama 'yong order, ta's ang presyo negotiated," he added. 

(What we care about is we ordered, it arrived, the order was correct, and the price was negotiated.)

Gordon said his committee's probe stemmed from complaints by health workers they have not received benefits due them amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said billions in funds supposedly wasted in the government's procurement of pandemic supplies could have been allotted for health workers' benefits.

- with a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

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