THE Senate Blue Ribbon chairman on Sunday expressed concern for the safety of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. executive earlier tagged as a potential government witness who went missing after admitting to senators that she instructed Pharmally warehousemen to alter expiry dates on medical-grade face shields delivered for use by government doctors and nurses.
Sen. Richard Gordon confirmed on Sunday that Krizle Grace Mago had stopped replying to their text messages, despite assuring him on Friday evening, at the virtual hearing, that she will “make a decision [on accepting Witness Protection Program enrolment] at least until after this hearing is over.”
With Mago’s disappearance, Blue Ribbon probers on Sunday faced another challenge to their ongoing investigation of alleged anomalies in multibillion-peso procurement of pandemic-related supplies. At their last hearing on September 24, several senators revealed the mysterious taking down of some entries, all involving Pharmally deliveries, in a Google Drive file submitted to the Blue Ribbon by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
Mago told Gordon at the livestreamed hearing on Friday that “one of your staff is in touch with me,” but when the hearing ended past 8 p.m., Blue Ribbon staff could no longer reach her.
On Sunday morning, Gordon said on his Twitter account: “BREAKING! Pharmally Pharmaceutical official Krizle Mago hindi na ma-contact ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Noong ika-siyam na pagdinig ay inalok natin siya ng pagkakataon na mabigyan ng proteksyon ng Senado ngunit nais niya muna raw itong pag-isipan.”
Senate President Vicente Sotto III separately confirmed that the trail to Mago had gone cold, fanning Senate probers’ fear that powerful unseen forces were moving mightily to cover up traces of wrongdoing in what has been touted as the most scandalous episode of the government’s pandemic response.
The Blue Ribbon has been leading investigation in why and how the PS-DBM, to which DOH transferred P42-billion of its pandemic funds, awarded an estimated P12 billion in PPE supply contracts to Pharmally, a startup with just P625,000 in paid-up capital but apparently strong backers, including former Duterte economic adviser Michael Yang.
Duterte has staunchly defended Yang and former PS-DBM head Lloyd Christopher Lao, and repeatedly attacked Gordon. He also moved to start investigations on Philippine Red Cross transactions with government. Gordon is PRC chairman.
At Friday’s hearing, Mago was confronted by Sen. Risa Hontiveros with the testimony of a former Pharmally warehouseman who pointed to her [Mago] as the one who gave them instructions to remove the expiry labels on face shields they were to supply to the DOH—via PS-DBM—and replacing these with tampered expiry stickers.
Senators offered WPP enrolment to Mago after she admitted the allegation.
Confronted by Hontiveros whether it is true that she instructed the change in expiry dates, Mago told Blue Ribbon probers, “that’s something I cannot deny”—a remark that Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said was a strong testimony, it being an “admission against self-interest.”
However, when Mago pointed to Pharmally corporate secretary Mohit Dargani as the one who gave her the instructions to change the expiry dates, Dargani denied doing so.
The Blue Ribbon last Friday had complained that certain electronic files on Pharmally’s deliveries had suddenly gone “missing” from the Google Drive files submitted by the PS-DBM under Lao to the senators.
Pangilinan counted at least 19 e-documents suddenly disappearing from the files sent to them, even while Senate staff were still downloading them. The e-documents covered an estimated P4.4 billion in Pharmally deliveries, per Pangilinan’s estimates.