MANILA (UPDATE)— Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive Mohit Dargani said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the firm for allegedly anomalous deals with the government failed to treat them fairly, after senators ordered their arrest for refusing to hand over subpoenaed documents.
“The Blue ribbon failed to treat us justly. Rather than impartially listening to us, they tried to get us to incriminate ourselves," he said.
"They want us detained because we asserted our rights, they can’t get what they want to hear from us."
Dargani, who serves as the company's corporate secretary, said they are being used for political gain.
"Malapit na eleksyon and we are like hostages. Hindi na para sa bayan. But for their political survival."
(The election is near and we are like hostages. This is no longer for the Philippines, but for their political survival)
"They treat us like criminals whose lives aren’t worthy of living anymore," he said. "We tried our best to cooperate and respect them, but this was completely out of harmony with accepted legal standards," he added.
Dargani also said President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with their deals with the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management, which the Senate is investigating.
"Walang kinalaman ang Presidente sa transactions namin with PS-DBM," he said.
(The President has nothing to do with our transactions with PS-DBM)
The statement, dated October 21, comes after the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee said it has been unsuccessful so far in its attempt to arrest Dargani and his sister Twinkle after they were not found in their registered addresses.
In a statement, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said she could not understand why Pharmally executives had to hide when something new is being uncovered during the hearings.
Hontiveros also lamented that the documents being asked from Pharmally have yet to be completed, even if the marathon hearings already ran for 12 days so far.
"What we have been asking for are basic documentary records of their transactions. These are documents that they are required to maintain for tax purposes. So where are they?" the lawmaker asked.
"If Pharmally can't document the cost of goods sold, baka several billion pesos na ang tax deficiency nila. Base sa mga naihaing ebidensya sa senado, dapat na silang i-audit ng BIR," she pointed out.
(Based on the pieces of evidence the Senate gathered, their tax deficiencies may already run to several billion pesos. Pharmally should be audited by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.)
The Commission on Audit (COA) has already committed to launching a special audit for the government's transactions with the embattled firm.
Hontiveros, meanwhile, reminded Dargani and other resource persons that they swore under oath.
"Kapag pabago-bago at hindi nagtutugma ang mga kwento nila, they are disrespecting the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Filipino people. The Chairman is within his power to hold them in contempt, and I fully support the committee’s efforts to find the Dargani siblings."
(If their statements are inconsistent, they are disrespecting the Blue Ribbon Committee and the Filipinos)
The Senate panel is investigating Pharmally after records showed that the PS-DBM awarded billions of pesos worth of government contracts to the company that only had less than a million pesos in paid-up capital.
Some senators earlier said the PS-DBM bought allegedly overpriced face masks and RT-PCR test kits from the company, whose executives are accused of fraudulent schemes in Taiwan, instead of procuring from local suppliers that were selling cheaper items.
The panel has so far recommended the filing of various charges against Pharmally's officers, Chinese businessman and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, and former budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao, among others, due to the allegedly anomalous transactions.
Duterte has denied the overpricing allegations and said the deals with Pharmally were above aboard.