MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday executives of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which bagged billions of pesos in government contracts last year, should go behind bars if they failed to pay taxes.
A Senate probe into government's pandemic transactions has revealed that some key Pharmally officers' income tax returns were not filed, unreadable, or even incomplete.
"Iyang mga Pharmally diyan na hindi nagbayad, dapat talaga pabayarin 'yan... For all we care, those persons there na hindi nagbayad na tax evasion, they can all go to prison. Problema nila 'yan," Duterte said in taped meeting with officials.
(Pharmally people that failed to pay should be made to do so. For all we care, those persons that did not pay committed tax evasion, and they can all go to prison. That is their problem.)
The investigation follows the state auditor's flagging of P67 billion in "deficiencies" in how supply contracts were handled. The funds were allocated to cover benefits of health workers and medical supplies.
Duterte last month ordered Cabinet members to refrain from appearing in Senate hearings. His government has denied misuse of the funds.
The President said he objected to his aides' attendance in the ongoing probe because of how they were treated by senators.
"Sana inuna nila ang mga tao na may trabaho sa gobyerno, those who are working in government and who had critical tasks to do. Eh ang problema nga 'yung tawagin tapos paupuin mo. Napakawala naman ng respeto itong mga tao na ito," he said in Tuesday's speech.
(They should have gone first with people who had work to do, hose who are working in government and who had critical tasks to do. The problem is you summon them, then make them sit. These people have no respect.)
"Wala tayong pakialam sa iba. Iyong sabi nilang Pharmally hindi bumabayad, ay ikulong ninyo ‘yan. Gusto niyo patayin pa ninyo. Wala, wala kaming pakialam. ‘Pag hindi nagbayad ng taxes, kriminal ‘yan," he added.
(We do not care about others. Those Pharmally officials who allegedly did not pay, jail them. Kill them if you want. We do not care. If they do not pay taxes, they are criminals.)
Duterte, 76, was elected on promises to eliminate graft completely. He cannot seek a second term and was expected to run for vice president next year before he announced his retirement from politics.
— With a report from Reuters