MANILA (UPDATED)— Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Saturday urged the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to freeze the assets of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executives after the revelation that they bought luxury cars after securing multibillion-peso deals with the government.
In a statement, De Lima cited the "urgent need" to have their assets frozen before they have the chance to leave the country "with their plundered loot."
"The AMLC should immediately apply for a freeze order and initiate civil forfeiture proceedings against these shameless profiteers.... That Lamborghini, that Porsche, that Lexus, are the people’s money. That is our money," she said.
She also said the assets of former presidential adviser Michael Yang, who has been linked to Pharmally, should also be frozen.
Pharmally has supposed links 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.
"Alam naman nating si Michael Yang lang at ang kanyang koneksyon kay Duterte ang dahilan kung bakit nakorner ng mga ito ang bilyon-bilyon na kontrata sa gobyerno," she said.
(We know Michael Yang's connection to Duterte, and the only reason why they were able to bag billions worth of contract in the government.)
"Saka na 'yung kalabaw. Kahit hanggang sa kanyang BFF na si Michael Yang muna," De Lima added.
(We'll chase the carabao next time. We'll go after his BFF Michael Yang first.)
Lawmakers are investigating government's P8.6-billion deal with Pharmally for the supply of supposedly overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) last year.
On Friday, Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said Pharmally executives Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani and his sister Twinkle Dargani had at least 4 luxury vehicles registered under their names less than a year after the transactions.
Gordon said Pharmally only had an initial capitalization of P599,000.
De Lima said this is a clear illustration of how the Philippines' COVID-19 response funds were misused at the height of rampant hunger and poverty during the pandemic.
"So that is where our Bayanihan 2 funds went. Ginamit na pambili ng mga Porsche at Lamborghini, habang namamatay sa gutom at COVID ang ating mga kababayan," she said.
"And these greedy monsters have no conscience whatsoever using our money to feed their boundless sociopathic need for material wealth at the expense of dying Filipinos in the midst of the COVID-19 catastrophe."
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, said the revelation on luxury cars could be used as "circumstantial evidence."
The lawmaker, a former police chief, was also puzzled how the Pharmally executives got a lot of money in a short period of time.
"Agad-agad parang napakaraming pera. That would buttress suspicions ang laki ng kinita nila," he said in a radio interview.
(It seems they got so much instant money to spend. That would buttress suspicions that they made a windfall.)
"'Yan pag pinagtagpi-tagpi mo may overprice. Kung wala, wala silang pambili ng sasakyan agad-agad," he said.
(If you piece together the circumstances, there are signs of overprice. Otherwise, they would not have money to buy such expensive vehicles)
He also emphasized that the Senate investigation aims to find out how public funds were spent, something that President Rodrigo Duterte should appreciate since he is against corruption.
Duterte earlier said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing is a waste of time. Officials have also said government's pandemic supply deals are above board.
But Lacson said the matter is about possible corruption hiding in government transactions.
"Hindi ito namumuntirya ng kung sinong tao. Ang pinupuntirya rito misuse ng public funds. After all isa lang sinisigaw natin, lahat tayo ngayon anti-corruption na," he said.
(The investigation is targeting not personalities but the issue of corruption. After all, we have a single battlecry, we are all now anti-corruption)
Duterte has insisted that there was nothing anomalous in the DBM deals.