Deputy ombudsman linked to Pharmally deal ready to inhibit from case

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 21 2021 11:33 PM | Updated as of Sep 22 2021 02:00 AM

Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Liong, a former director at the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (PS-DBM)

MANILA - The overall deputy ombudsman tagged in the procurement of questionable personal protective equipment (PPE) at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year on Tuesday said he will voluntarily inhibit from the case if the matter is brought to the Office of the Ombudsman. 

During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Warren Liong, a former director at the Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (PS-DBM), said this is even if he does not handle such cases. 

"I handle low ranking officers in the NCR, but to answer the question of honorable Drilon drectly, yes I will inhibit if for some reason it reaches my desk," Liong said. 

When earlier asked by Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon why he sought the post in the Ombudsman's Office, Liao said he just took a chance.

In an ANC interview earlier this month, Gordon alleged that President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Warren Liong after he dismissed Melchor Carandang as Overall Deputy Ombudsman in November last year.

Gordon said in the same interview that the Ombudsman's office could be "compromised" since Duterte appointed the official.

"I was a contractual employee in PS-DBM and I wanted to be in the government. So when there was an opening, I went for it," he explained. 

"I did not know that I will be appointed, pero sinubukan ko po yung JBC kasi first time ko doon eh (I just tried because it was my first time there)" he added.

Liong's former boss, Christopher Lao, was chief of the PS-DBM when Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. won P8.6 billion in government contracts for face masks and COVID-19 test kits even if it was only incorporated in 2019 and only had a capital of about P625,000.

Pharmally is under inquiry for supposedly supplying overpriced medical goods to the government when the COVID-19 pandemic started last year.

Senators said Lao also applied for the overall deputy ombudsman post, but eventually withdrew his application when matters eventually became "controversial." 

When asked what his role was in the Pharmally deal, Liong said he was only "recommending approval of the procurement based on the records, documents" submitted to him. 

According to state media, Liong was Duterte's legal counsel from August 2010 to June 2013, when he was still vice mayor of Davao City.

Liong was also Senator Christopher "Bong" Go's batchmate in La Salle, Gordon earlier said.

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