MANILA— Those complaining of the Senate's investigation into allegedly anomalous pandemic supply deals involving Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. should just go to court, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Saturday.
“Kung sa tingin nila ay lumalagpas kami sa aming kapangyarihan, pumunta po sila sa husgado. Hindi po pwedeng pagsabihan sa amin 'hoy lumalagpas kayo sa inyong kapangyarihan, itigil na.' Hindi ganun ang sistema natin. Dapat pumunta sila sa husgado sabihin nila na lumalagpas kami sa aming kapangyarihan at itigil kami,” Drilon said.
(If they think that we're going beyond our power then they should go to court. They can’t just say hey, you’re going over your power’s limit, stop this now. That’s not how our system works. They should go to court.)
In a taped address on Thursday, President Rodrigo Duterte, who has many times defended government's deal with Pharmally, ordered the police and the military to stay out of the Senate probe.
This, after the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms took custody of a Pharmally executive for evading questions at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee inquiry.
Earlier, the President also threatened to issue a memorandum barring Cabinet members from attending the probe. His former adviser Michael Yang is being linked to Pharmally.
“Hindi sang-ayon at labag sa Saligang Batas na ipagbawal ang pagharap ng mga miyembro ng gabinete maliban kung 'yan ay military at diplomatic secrets at national security. Ang pagnanakaw po ay hindi national security issue, hindi military secret, hindi diplomatic secret,” he said.
(Prohibiting members of Cabinet [from attending Senate hearings] is against the Constitution unless if it involves military and diplomatic secrets and national security. Plunder is not a national security issue, not a military secret, and not a diplomatic secret.)
Drilon said he has yet to see a copy of such instructions from the President.
“May mga paraan kami para ipaliwanag sa taumbayan ang nangyari, hindi po kailangang ang cabinet secretary ang magte-testify. Ang hinahanap natin dito 'yung katotohanan, 'yung sinong pwedeng magsabi ng katotohanan, 'yun po ang aming tatawagin sa committee hearing,” he said.
(There are other ways to explain to the public what happenened and a cabinet secretary doesn’t have to be the one to testify. We are looking for the truth, we will call to the committee hearing those who could tell the truth.)
The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is investigating Pharmally for allegedly supplying overpriced and substandard face masks, face shields and other medical equipment to the government.
Drilon said the Senate is working hard to investigate the deal because of the public funds involved.
“Kaya po kami ay nagpupursiging mag imbestiga dito dahilan sa ang laki ng amount involved, kulang ang pera ng taumbayan, kulang ang ayuda, kulang ang bakuna, hindi ba dapat suriin kung sino ang nagnakaw dito?” he said.
(The reason why we're investigating this is because of the huge amount involved, we are short in public funds, aid, vaccines, isn't it just right to investigate what was stolen?)
Meanwhile, Drilon believes that the probe will not be affected even after Pharmally executive Krizle Mago sought protective custody from the House of Representatives.
“Hindi po maapektuhan yan, unang-una nagpahayag na siya na talagang pinalitan nila ang expiry date. Sa akin sapat na 'yun. Hindi naman criminal investigation ito. Ito ay kasama sa aming pagiimbestiga kung ano ba dapat na batas ang gawin. Kino-confirm niya 'yung statement ng warehouse man," said Drilon in reference to a witness whose testimony on tampering Mago affirmed.
(It will not be affected, first of all she has confirmed that they changed the expiry date. For me that’s enough. This is not a criminal investigation. This is part of our investigation in aid of legislation. She confirmed the statement of the warehouseman.)
Mago, who said she was fearing for her life, last week admitted that Pharmally “swindled” the government for ordering the tampering of face shield expiry dates.
Drilon, meanwhile, questioned why Mago went to the House of Representatives instead of security agencies such as the National Bureau of Investigation and the police if she was concerned for her safety.
"Hindi ko alam kung saan siya natatakot. Sabi niya may banta sa buhay niya at sa kanyang security, bakit doon siya sa House pumunta? 'Yan lang po ang tanong,” he asked.
(I don't know what she's scared of. She said there's a threat to her security, why did she go to the House? That's my question.)
Duterte's allies dominate the House.