MANILA (UPDATE) - Pharmally officials who have been trying to evade the Senate panel investigating the allegedly anomalous procurement of COVID-19 supplies see Davao City as a “safe haven,” at least 2 senators said Monday, hours after two of the firm’s executives were arrested for trying to flee the country from President Rodrigo Duterte’s hometown and bailiwick.
Pharmally officials Mohit and Twinkle Dargani - who were cited in contempt for failing to submit documents subpoenaed by the Senate - were arrested in Davao City late Sunday as they boarded a private plane headed to Malaysia.
“They chartered a private plane and were leaving via Davao where they figured they could be safe and make law enforcement officers pause or hesitate to arrest them,” Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon said.
“Evasion and flight [are] always interpreted as clear signs of guilt,” he told ABS-CBN News in a text message.
Aside from the Dargani siblings, former Presidential Economic Adviser Michael Yang and former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao have allegedly holed up in Davao City when attending the Senate’s virtual hearings. Lao is a resident of Davao, while Yang stayed in a hotel there.
“Davao City may be a common ‘safe haven’ for the likes of Michael Yang, Christopher Lao and well, almost for the Darganis,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a separate text message.
“No place on earth is a safe haven. That much I learned from my long years in law enforcement,” said Lacson, a former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP).
In an interview with ANC's Headstart, Lacson said he also expects Lao and Yang to be "more careful."
"Davao City is not safe. They should stop thinking na hindi sila puwedeng magalaw doon," he said.
The Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms intercepted Pharmally executives who were trying to flee the country in the middle of the chamber’s investigations after they received and acted on a tip, Gordon said.
“Mohit fled while being questioned in open hearing once he knew that contempt of the Senate was approved. He did not excuse himself,” the Senate Blue Ribbon panel chief said.
“We knew day before yesterday from a tip that they were going to escape via the back door. Gen. Rene Samonte and his men from OSAA did their jobs to protect the Senate‘s enforcement of law, rules and duty,” he said.
Lacson said the arrest taught the Dargani siblings that “hubris, more often than not, is counter-productive.”
“Our Sergeant-at-Arms, retired Major General Rene Samonte, is definitely not sleeping on his job,” the senator said.
“They deserve commendations from the Filipino people.”
Pangilinan also lauded the OSAA's effort, and said there is no substitute to quick law enforcement. He also gave a "thumbs-up" to the leadership of Senate President Vicente Sotto III for keeping the Senate as an "independent at co-equal branch."
"Sa magkapatid na Dargani, wala ring mag-sa-substitute sa inyo diyan sa pansamantalang kulungan. Paparusahan ang lahat ng hindi marunong rumespeto o sa nagbabalewala sa mga kautusan at alituntunin ng Senado bilang institusyon," he also said in a statement.
(To the Dargani siblings, there is also no substitute for you in the temporary detention. All who do not respect or those who disregard the orders and rules of the Senate as an institution will be punished.)
"Warning ito sa lahat ng sangkot sa pinakagarapal na komisyon de konsumisyon ng taon," he said.
(This is a warning to all who are involved in the most brazen 'komisyon de konsumisyon' of the year.)
Pharmally officials earlier complained that they were allegedly being treated like criminals during Senate hearings.
The chamber found that the Dargani siblings and other Pharmally officials bought several sports cars months after they bagged billion-peso deals from the national government for the procurement of allegedly overpriced face masks and RT-PCR test kits.
The panel also confirmed that the 2-year-old firm skirted several tax laws.