Espinoza: Would Malacañang probe PS-DBM's purchases?

·3 min read

THE purchases of supplies to equip the frontliners in the battle against Covid-19 since last year is now being looked into by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. On top of the list of the Committee's investigation is Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, a young company that allegedly cornered the biggest pie worth P8.7 million for nine contracts with the government through PS-DBM (Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management).

According to Rappler News, Pharmally is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on September 4, 2019 and has a paid-up capital of P625,000. A certain Huang Tzu Yen, said to be a Filipino citizen, owns 40 percent of the shares, while the other stockholders: Twinkle Dargani has 10 percent; Mohit Dargani, 30 percent; Linconn Ong, 16 percent; and Justine Gardo, 4 percent.

When the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee subpoenaed the stockholders of Pharmally for them to attend the hearings, the Committee's messengers found out that their addresses were either non-existent or were barely occupied. This alone could raise more doubts on the true identity of the owners. In other words, they could be dummies.

When Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March last year, the government scrambled to get supplies for the PPEs, face masks and other protective gears for the government frontliners. The Bayanihan Act 1 and 2 provided the easy acquisition of these supplies. Pharmally was able to beat the other bidders, which are huge companies and already have the track records in government contracts.

To qualify to bid for government projects, it is a requisite that a bidder/company must show that it has completed previous similar project worth at least 50 percent of the budget for the contract. A registration with Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) is also a requirement. Pharmally is not in the database of Philgeps, Rappler News found out.

Lloyd Christopher Lao, former PS-DBM undersecretary, admitted during the Senate hearing that his office failed to check on the articles of incorporation of Pharmally.

"It is either there was no due diligence for reason of collusion, or they were lazy to exercise diligence, or they're sloppy, which I don't want to believe being the PS-DBM, a trained and experienced procuring entity of the government. I wonder how they were able to award the procurement of billions of these items," Senator Panfilo Lacson commented during the August 27 Senate hearing on pandemic spending.

The senators could not believe that for a small company like Pharmally, it could corner huge procurement contracts through bidding at the PS-DBM. Of the nine contracts that Pharmally got from PS-DBM, three of these were awarded on behalf of the Department of Health (DOH) in a total amount of P4.84 billion.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, however, has not issued any statement that the transactions were tinted with corruption, but before it would recommend for the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate these transactions, would the Office of the President conduct its own probe?

Malacañang has its own anti-corruption unit that could look into these doubtful transactions at the PS-DBM during these times of need. In several occasions, President Rodrigo Duterte has publicly and strongly denounced corruption in his administration. It would show sincerity on the part of the President on his narratives, or should I say expletives against corruption if he orders an investigation before the other agencies of government could begin one.

Senator Franklin Drilon already suggested during the committee hearing that the matter merits a graft investigation "at the very least" by the Office of the Ombudsman. But would the Ombudsman conduct an investigation? Just asking anyway.

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