Political angle at play in twin probes on Pharmally deal: analyst

Aleta Nieva Nishimori, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 17 2021 10:13 AM | Updated as of Sep 17 2021 10:16 AM

President Rodrigo Duterte, accompanied by businessman Michael Yang (2nd from right) and members of his delegation and Chinese officials, in Beijing, China on October 19, 2016. Toto Lozano, Malacanang Photo/file
President Rodrigo Duterte, accompanied by businessman Michael Yang (2nd from right) and members of his delegation and Chinese officials, in Beijing, China on October 19, 2016. Toto Lozano, Malacanang Photo/file

MANILA - A political analyst on Friday weighed in on the simultaneous probe of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp’s multi-billion supply contract with government.

UP Political Science Prof. Aries Arugay said that while these investigations are important as it tackles the government’s pandemic policies, it cannot be denied that political angle is at play as the elections draw nearer.

“Nalilito na, nakaka-distract na siguro sa taumbayan ang nangyayaring imbestigasyon. Sana naka-focus tayo sa pandemic response. Sa tingin ko maraming nauubos na oras sa imbestigasyon na ito at alam naman natin na malapit na ang eleksiyon at hindi naman siguro maikakatwa na may anggulong pulitika ang lahat ng ito,” he said.

(The public is probably confused and distracted with the ongoing investigations. Let’s focus on the pandemic response. But I think, were wasting too much time on the investigations and we all know that the election is near and we cannot deny that the political angle in all of these.)

Both the House and the Senate are investigating government's P8.6-billion deal with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. for the supply of supposedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields last year. 

The Senate is specifically looking into supposed ties of Duterte's former adviser Michael Yang with Pharmally. At a hearing last week, a Pharmally official admitted to borrowing money from Yang for the supply deal.

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President Duterte, who has publicly defended Yang's role in the Pharmally deal, has praised the House of Representatives inquiry while criticizing the investigation being conducted by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. 

He claimed there was "no overpricing" and "no ghost deliveries as some senators were implying." 

Arugay said the two houses of Congress presented different moods on the issue which further adds to the public’s confusion. The administration is likewise not consistent as it allowed officials to attend the probe in the lower house but not in the Senate.

“Ang lalabas nito sa tingin ko, walang kahinatnan kasi alam natin na ang mga imbestigasyon na ito ay para dapat gumawa ng batas. Kailangan mo yung dalawa para magkaroon ng batas. Let’s say magkaiba yung report na ilalabas tungkol sa imbestigasyon na ito. Ibig sabihin stalemate yun. Kung ang Kamara sinasabi nilang walang anomalya samantala ang Senado maaaring ang konklusiyon nila maaaring merong irregularities paano ka gagawa ng batas kung makaiba yung opinion ng dalawa?” he said.

(But I think this will lead to nowhere because we all know that these investigations are being done in aid of legislation. You need both chambers to create a law. Let’s say they present two different reports on the issue. That would be stalemate. If Congress says there is no anomaly while the Senate, in its conclusion would say there was irregularities, how can you craft a law if they have different opinions.)

In the interview, Arugay urged the public to recall the track record of lawmakers in both the Senate and the House of Representatives investigating the issue.
 
“Sana makita ng mga kababayan natin yung mas mahabang timeline o kasaysayan ng mga opinyon, posisyon ng mga pulitiko na nag-iimbesiga at yung mga iniimbestigahan sa ngayon,” he said.

(I hope the public look back at the timeline or history of opinions and positions of politicians conducting the investigations and officials being investigated.)

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