Espinoza: Billions gone with wind?

·3 min read

What happened to the Pharmally pharmaceutical scandal? The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s investigation to bring in the truth on the P10 billion worth of contracts of Pharmally with the government for the needed supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021 was nada. This after the committee failed to get the required 11 signatures of the senators to endorse the 113-page draft report to the plenary for approval.

The Pharmally executives and the government officials must now be laughing to their heart’s content and the alleged plundered billions just vanished into thin air.

It was reported that only Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon, Senators Leila de Lima, Risa Hontiveros, Ping Lacson, Manny Pacquiao, Kiko Pangilinan and Koko Pimentel signed the report. Those who refused to sign were Senate Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, Senators Sonny Angara, Pia Cayetano, Sherwin Gatchalian, Bong Go, Lito Lapid, Imee Marcos, Grace Poe, Bong Revilla, Francis Tolentino and Cynthia Villar.

The Blue Ribbon Committee report recommended the filing of plunder, graft and other criminal charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque, former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Rex Warren Liong, Chinese businessman Michael Yang and Pharmally executives. The report also stated that after President Duterte’s term, charges must be considered against him for “betrayal of public trust.”

Four senators openly said they did not sign the report because of the inclusion of President Duterte in the report. They are Majority Floor Leader Migz Zubiri, and Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Sonny Angara and Imee Marcos. These senators would simply not sign that committee report that might indict the President after his term for some reasons or another because, maybe, they owed some favor to the Chief Executive.

President Duterte personally endorsed Senator Zubiri in the last elections and he’s been reelected. According to Zubiri, he would have signed the committee report if the name of President Duterte hadn’t been included.

Senator Imee Marcos’ stand is very understandable because her brother, President-elect BBM, is the running mate of Vice President-elect Sara Duterte even if she said that the committee report went “above and beyond evidence.”

Senator Marcos was quoted as saying: “We were a little bit surprised, if I have to say it politely, that it included the President and encompassed breach of trust and other allegations that had not really been discussed or had been shown by the evidence presented so.”

Conversely, the critics of Sen. Dick Gordon, chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, who had a word war with President Duterte on this Pharmally scandal, could surmise that the inclusion of President Duterte in the report is a retaliation.

Gordon, in his last privilege speech, told the senators that they “cannot shirk from our responsibilities” by refusing to sign the draft report. “The Senate’s full disclosure of the Pharmally plunder controversy achieves closure for our people. I am doing this as a chairman in a quandary. I respect my fellow members. I do not try to antagonize them or badmouth them. I respect the Filipino people,” he said.

In short, it’s the inclusion of President Duterte in the committee report that, perhaps, provides the gateway to freedom for the Pharmally executives and the involved government officials and the billions plundered are now gone with the wind. But this goes to show that the four branches of our government are still not independent of each other even when our Constitution says so.

Excluding President Duterte, would the administration of President-elect BBM go after the responsible government officials and Pharamally executives in this scandal? Doubting Thomases don’t think so.

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