Senate witness denies allegation of bribery for testimony on Pharmally face shields

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 30 2021 04:03 PM

MANILA - A Senate witness said Thursday he was not bribed into revealing during last week's hearing that Pharmally Pharmaceutical ordered the tampering with allegedly "expired" face shields intended for the government.

"Ako po yung unang nag-email sa page po ni Senator Risa Hontiveros para po, para humingi ng tulong.... Gusto ko lang po i-share doon yung mga anomalya na ginagawa namin sa face shields po," the witness said. 

(I was the one who emailed the page of Sen. Risa Hontiveros to ask for help. I wanted to share the anomalies that we did regarding the face shields.)

He added that everything he said is "true", with Pharmally executive Krizle Grace Mago even complementing the information he shared.

Asked if he was bribed to supposedly lie and give damning testimonies against Pharmally, the man answered in the negative.

"Hindi po... Kusang loob ko pong sinabi po sa inyo. Tapos wala naman po akong bayad na hiningi po sa inyo." 

(No. I voluntarily said these things. I did not ask for any money.)

According to the warehouse staff who was interviewed by someone from Hontiveros' office, they repacked face shields that were already yellowing, folded, wet, old, and even dirty.

Mago also confirmed at the same hearing that they indeed changed certification stickers on face shields intended for the Department of Health and bought through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.

Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer for Pharmally executive Linconn Ong, alleged that the witness was bribed, showing a supposed evidence regarding the matter.

He and the Citizen’s Crime Watch president Diego Magpantay said they are mulling to file a case against Hontiveros and her two staffers because of this.

Topacio's allegations are frustrating, said Hontiveros, adding they would just focus instead on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that resumed Thursday afternoon.

When asked if her camp would file libel charges against Topacio, the lawmaker said she's still consulting with her lawyer. 

"Walang kasaysayan ng bribery ang opisina ko. Dahil kung kasaysayan rin lang ang pag-uusapan, ang meron kami ay history ng pagprotekta, pagtatanggol, at pagkalinga sa mga testigong lumalapit sa akin," Hontiveros said. 

(My office does not have any history of bribery. We have a history of protecting, defending, and helping witnesses who approach our office.)

On Wednesday, senators said the probe on the supposed mismanagement of COVID-19 response funds would continue despite harassments from President Rodrigo Duterte and various camps.

Pharmally's deal with government is under scrutiny for alleged overpricing and delivery of substandard pandemic supplies to government.

Sen. Franklin Drilon had said that at least P10 billion worth of supply deals have been awarded to Pharmally since last year by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management.

Public funds wasted on anomalous transactions could have been used for the benefits of health workers who are battling COVID-19 in the frontlines, Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that is conducting the probe, had said.

The Duterte administration denied there was overpricing and said that the deals were above board.


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