MANILA -- Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive Krizle Grace Mago said Monday she was pressured when she told a Senate inquiry that their company "swindled" the government over the changing of certification stickers on face shields purchased by the latter.
Mago--who did not show up at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Sept. 30, or four days after they lost contact with her--made the statement at the opening of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability's probe on the transactions between government and Pharmally since last year.
“Regarding my previous statement that 'I believed we swindled the government', it was a pressured response. Given the level of pressure I was under and the rush of emotions associated with the allegations and my subsequent admission, I was not in the best frame of mind to think clearly," said Mago, head of Pharmally's Regulatory Affairs.
"At the time, I considered the fact that we had already delivered a portion (28 percent to be precise) of the face shields to DOH, which prompted my response, 'I believe that is the case.'"
"However, after the Senate hearing, I realized that the delivered items had not been inspected yet and, as a result, had not been allocated and distributed to the end-users. Additionally, we did not receive any payment from the government for the partial delivery. Thus, I hope that this statement clarifies the situation," she said.
In response to a question from Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta, Mago said, “That time po kasi, yung talagang under pressure po ako na sumagot kasi ayaw ko rin naman po maging evasive. I was under the impression (na) kailangan ko sumagot directly."
"I was not in the best frame of mind to think clearly and wisely ng mga isasagot," she added.
"Dahil nga po sa intense na scrutiny ng invetigation, as well as allegations galing sa video na nilabas."
Mago agreed with Marcoleta who likened the questioning of her at the Senate to interrogation by government agencies and even crime syndicates.
"In my view, not an investigation in aid of legislation. It seems to me it was an interrogation similar to questionning employed by military establishment, law enforcement, even intelligence agencies and organized crime syndicates… These are the means employed in exacting information by said agencies and groups. Was this the kind of envrioment you felt?" the lawmaker asked.
Mago answered in the affirmative.
She likewise denied all allegations made by an unidentified witness of Senator Risa Hontiveros at the Senate hearing.
"I deny all allegations made by the unidentified person who appeared in a video presented by Senator Risa Hontiveros during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing last September 24, 2021," she said.
"Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, or PPC, has never delivered damaged items to the government, nor does it intend to. PPC conducts routine quality inspection of its inventory prior to making deliveries."
"It is in the conduct of this quality control that PPC was able to identify damaged items such as, but not limited to, dented, folded, torn or broken, and discolored face shields," she added.
"Contrary to the allegations made, these damaged items are immediately segregated subject to proper disposal, and therefore excluded from delivery."
During the Sept. 24 hearing at the Senate, Mago confirmed that they are changing certification stickers of face shields, saying, "That is something that I cannot deny."
This was after Hontiveros' witness, who is a warehouse staff for Pharmally, alleged that they were changing the stickers of "expired" medical-grade face shields from 2020 to this year as they included substandard products in their packaging.
In confirming the alteration of certification stickers, Mago told the senators that that was based on instructions of management officers, particularly Mohit Dargani.
"With regards to the changing of the stickers of the items, my response is this was a supply concern, I raised this concern to the management and that was the solution for us," Mago said then.
Dargani refuted Mago's statement.
At Monday's hearing by House lawmakers, Mago said, "When we received the inventory, the face shields were already inconsistently packed to begin with, meaning that there were face shields packed individually and face shields packed in groups. And these face shields packed in groups had only one product certificate included inside the packaging."
"To make matters worse, in the course of our quality control inspections, a significant number of packs were opened for the purpose of removing the damaged items. As a result, we ended up with an inventory so inconsistently packed, ranging from about six to 10 face shields per pack, in addition to the items which were individually packed," she added.
"I raised this concern in a meeting with my principals sometime in August 2021, and it was then decided to repack the stocks uniformly in groups of 10 face shields per pack for an easier and more efficient inventory management and accounting. This was the same instructions I relayed to the warehouse staff. In the conduct of the repacking, different packs with broken quantities were merged to produce uniform packs of 10 face shields."
She added, "And as a result of the merging, some certificates got mixed up while others were subsequently discarded as the staff only needed to choose one product certificate to include in the pack."
Mago said that comparing the two product certificates that appeared in the video of Hontiveros' witness would show that "the old certificate, which was replaced, had a production date of April 2020 with a validity of three years, whereas the new certificate had a production date of April 2021 with a validity of 24 months, which is equivalent to two years."
"Clearly, neither of the face shields bearing both certificates had previously expired. To further clarify, the face shields required by the DOH for this contract, according to the technical specifications, are non-medical grade face shields," she said.
Mago said could not understand why she was accused of lying.
"Personally, I was perplexed as to how I could be perceived as a liar when I was simply responding directly to questions based on facts reflected on the records, which I even promptly forwarded to the committee upon request."
"And after I relayed the sequence of events, one thing that stood out was the reaction to the advance delivery, which included disparaging remarks like 'parang Grab lang'."
Mago cited the pandemic as a reason why deliveries for medical supplies were made even before a purchase order was issued.
"I recognize that each of us is entitled to our own interpretation and reaction to each revelation made during the hearings. And, while I agree that the delivery prior to the issuance of a purchase order was unusual, we should not overlook the fact that it occurred during an unprecedented period of time."
"I also struggled to purchase masks for personal use at the same time, but our company was gracious enough to provide masks for every employee," she said.
Mago said that the investigations on Pharmally, which some senators suspect was favored by government because of its links with Davao-based businessman Michael Yang, a former economic adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte, have been difficult for her.
“Let me share a few sentiments that I harbored for quite some time. As a shy and socially awkward person, the past two months have been particularly difficult for me, which has been exacerbated by my involvement in the ongoing investigations."
"While testifying before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's 6th Public Hearing on September 13, 2021, I was questioned about the specifics of the first contract with (Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service). It was extremely traumatic for me to be accused of lying and threatened with contempt."
Mago also revealed that she tested positive for COVID-19 during the course of the hearings.
"Additionally, the overwhelming pressure and the intense scrutiny of the investigations have had a detrimental effect on my mental health. Over and above these, my personal mobile phone number and address were also revealed, resulting in unwanted harassment and distressing messages."
Mago thanked the House of Representatives for securing her and allowing her to speak. She surfaced on Friday after being unreachable for sometime following her Senate testimony.
Mago apologized for being unreachable for some time.
"I apologize for going off the radar for a few days. I simply needed time to breathe and to process everything that had just transpired. I extend my gratitude to those who expressed concern for my safety and well-being," she said.
In his opening statement, committee chair Rep. Michael Aglipay said this will be the fourth and final hearing on the alleged overpriced medical and health equipment bought by the Department of Health for the COVID-19 response.
“As I have said before, the House Blue Ribbon Committee shall not prolong the legislative inquiry on this subject. In three (3) meetings alone, we have unraveled vast information for this Committee to make a recommendation on whether malfeasance, misfeasance or non-feasance was committed by public officials," he said.
Aglipay addressed critics who have said that the House probe is pro-government and a counterpoint to the Senate investigations.
"Mayroon nagsabi na nabibili o nababayaran ako. I assure you, the Filipino people, that I cannot be bought. Hindi po ako nabibili," he said.
Duterte has said he was "happy" with the "fair" House of Representatives inquiry into government's pandemic deals, which he said was "more sane" compared to the Senate's probe.
He described the Senate hearings as "a waste of time."
Senator Richard Gordon, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, had said that the probe on the government's spending to address the pandemic was conducted after receiving complaints from health workers about the lack or delay in the release of their benefits as COVID-19 frontliners.
He said public funds wasted on anomalous transactions could have been used for the benefits of health workers.