FORMER presidential adviser Michael Yang is expected to attend anew, virtually, the continuation on Monday morning of the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry into controversies surrounding billions in pandemic fund management, notably P8 billion in contracts awarded to an under-capitalized firm tied to Yang.
Yang, along with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. Director Lincoln Ong, was cited in contempt by senators after Friday’s 7-hour hearing, and ordered arrested by the Senate sergeant at arms. Yang, whom President Duterte called his friend, is currently in Davao City.
Ong was placed under Senate custody—albeit in his home as he is in isolation for Covid-19—for evasiveness in replying to Blue Ribbon members’ questions on how Pharmally, though newly incorporated with paid-up capital of P625,000, was awarded contracts to supply personal protective equipment starting in April 2020. Ong skirted senators’ questions about how Pharmally obtained the money to finance its first deliveries of face masks and face shields, until the second Pharmally executive summoned, Huang Tzu Yen, admitted that funds were lent by Yang.
Yang in turn was cited in contempt by Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon for repeatedly claiming his only link to Pharmally was his having introduced the start-up to four Chinese suppliers.
Duterte attacks senators
Also at the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Frank Drilon deplored Duterte’s penchant for diverting issues hounding his administration by attacking senators even as he keeps defending controversial parties called to account on the multibillion-peso “deficiencies” in pandemic fund use.
In a radio interview, Drilon aired disappointment that instead of chasing erring officials linked to “premeditated plunder or planning to raid government coffers,” the President would rather hurl “assorted intrigues and false allegations” against senators.
Alluding to Duterte’s raking up his alleged close ties to convicted pork barrel queen Janet Napoles, Drilon said, “no charges were lodged against me.”
On former Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog, whom he admitted is a relative, Drilon asked, “has evidence ever been shown that we discussed drugs? General Garbo was a former regional director of Region 6, maybe for over a decade. What’s my relation to that?”
Duterte linked Drilon to the Iloilo airport controversy. “Who brokered the sale? That was bought via public bidding that was supervised by former Secretary of Justice Raul Gonzalez, along with the Department of Finance and National Economic and Development Authority, Department of Budget and Management and Department of Trade and Industry,” Drilon added, partly in Filipino.
Way back in 2007, when he was not in the Senate, a public bidding was held “and the P1.2 billion project was awarded in accord with approved agency estimate,” said Drilon, noting that the Privatization Council was on top of the project.
The senator blasted attempts to link him to malls built in his home province. “The malls in our place—SM, Megaworld, those of Sen. Cynthia Villar. I’ve nothing to do with those. I have no investment there—not even one peso. It’s so dismaying that these are being hurled at us.”