‘Bayanihan 1 made deals with Pharmally legal’

BusinessMirror screenshot from the livestreaming of the Blue Ribbon hearing on September 10 shows the timeline—presented by Sen. Panfilo Lacson—for the awarding of PPE contracts to Pharmally.

FORMER officials of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and a leader of the House of Representatives on Monday said Republic Act 11469 or Bayanihan 1 gave the government the legal basis to purchase “readily available” face shields and face masks last year.

At the hearing of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability on alleged overpriced Covid-19 supplies, Lloyd Christopher Lao, former head of the PS-DBM, said the government will always choose the supplies that are immediately available in a crisis.

“Based on the judgment call, I would choose the items that are present,” said Lao as he reiterated that there was no anomaly in the procurement of emergency supplies last year.

For his part, Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta said the procurement made by the PS-DBM was legal under Bayanihan 1, saying, “who will you choose: the supplier with a higher price but can deliver immediately the needed supplies or a supplier with lower price but cannot deliver immediately?”

Marcoleta also cited anew the RA 11469 or Bayanihan 1 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, which authorizes the President to adopt and implement measures needed to respond to the crisis brought by Covid-19 as the need arises, in the most expeditious manner, as exemptions from the provisions of RA9184 and other relevant laws.

The controversial Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. secured P8.6 billion worth of the government contracts for the PPEs in 2020 and P2.9 billion in 2021. Pharmally was registered in September 2019 with the Securities and Exchange Commission with a paid-up capital of P625,000.

Deputy Ombudsman Warren Liong, a former director of the PS-DBM, said Bayanihan 1 law allows the government to negotiate directly for the Covid-19 supplies.    

With Bayanihan 1, he reiterated that Congress recognized the need to give the President the power to procure in the most expeditious manner given the emergency.

Liong claimed the purchase of Covid-19 supplies from Pharmally was not overpriced.

Last week, COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo also said the Palace had the power to ignore Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act because of the passage of Bayanihan 1.

Tiny income, fast cars

MeanwHile, at the Senate, Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked for the income tax records of top officials of Pharmally, on being informed that these officials were driving around in luxury cars, estimated to add up to  “over P60 million.”

According to Drilon, they also intend to check with the Bureau of Internal Revenue to verify if Pharmally executives were paying proper taxes to the government in order to assess their capability to buy luxury vehicles even as the company declared low earnings in 2019.

At Friday’s hearing, Sen. Richard Gordon also brought up information on the purchase of luxury cars including a Porsche, Lamborghini and a Lexus for Linconn Ong, Mohit Dargani and Twinkle Dargani.

Also raised at the hearing was information that Pharmally officials earned nearly P400 million in 2020 after the firm cornered the multibillion-peso contract with the government.  

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