MANILA - Sen. Richard Gordon on Tuesday said the questionable deals that government got into with embattled Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. got President Rodrigo Duterte's approval, as the Senate's probe on pandemic spending continued.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate's Blue Ribbon Committee, in his opening speech at the resumption of the hearings, said it was so far "clear and categorical" that Duterte had ties with the dubious transactions.
Pharmally bagged P8.68-billion worth of contracts with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) despite having a paid-up capital of only P625,000 in 2019, senators said.
"This grand conspiracy could never have happened without the imprimatur of the executive from beginning to end, from meeting with Pharmally to the appointments of selected people who are extremely loyal to him is [the] basis of the appointment and not competence," Gordon said during his speech.
"The President allowed his friends to bleed this nation’s coffers dry," he said in an accompanying tweet.
But Malacañang dismissed as hearsay Gordon's claim, saying that the ongoing Senate probe failed to prove overpricing in government's purchase of personal protective equipment.
He added that a pandemic law also authorized Duterte to fast track the purchase of these safety gear.
"Malinaw po iyan, so kung wala pong paglabag sa batas at walang overprice, bakit magkakaroon ng grand conspiracy? Usaping kutsero po ng isang taong namumulitika," he said in a separate press briefing.
(That is clear. If there is no violation of the law and no overpricing, why will there be a grand conspiracy? That is just hearsay by someone who is politicking.)
Gordon cited Duterte's speech in a PDP-Laban convention last Sept. 8, where he supposedly admitted that his former economic adviser, Michael Yang, also had a hand with such deals.
Yang had repeatedly refused to discuss his businesses during the Senate hearings, as well as the people he worked with in Davao, citing non-disclosure agreements (NDA).
Yang has been linked to the allegedly dubious deals and was supposedly the official who lent Pharmally executives money for the government transactions.
"Si Michael Yang daw po ang nag-legwork papunta sa China at si Michael Yang ang pinapasok ng Presidente bilang economic adviser na banyaga, na may problema tayo sa bansang China... 'di po natin kaibigan ang mga naghaharing-uri diyan sa China," the lawmaker added.
"Tatanggalin po natin ang maskara ni Michael Yang," he said.
GORDON'S WEBSITE DOWN
In another tweet, the lawmaker said his website is down for the second time in the past month due to a supposed cyberattack.
Gordon has been at the receiving end of Duterte's criticisms as the probe continued.
Duterte has expressed his disapproval of the Senate's marathon hearings regarding pandemic deals, lamenting the way lawmakers treat resource speakers, including government officials handling the country's coronavirus response.
Because of this, the President in early October issued a memorandum prohibiting his aides from joining the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing.
Senators on Oct. 6 reeled with the absence of government officials in the executive branch, and focused instead on the Pharmally executives.
Duterte had denied the allegation of overpricing of supplies from Pharmally, and maintained that the deals were above board.