THE Senate is proceeding with the transfer of Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani and Linconn Ong from the Senate building to the Pasay City Jail after the duo did not honor a commitment to the Blue Ribbon Committee to produce “boxes” of company documents they were supposed to retrieve with the help of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms (OSAA).
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima noted, however, that the duo appeared ready to go to jail than give up other, possibly more powerful cohorts.
The OSAA informed Senate leaders they were unable to retrieve the documents because the two men refused to provide exact addresses
where they were supposed to pick up the documents that Dargani told
Blue Ribbon chairman Sen. Richard J. Gordon, at last Friday’s hearing, had been packed in boxes and moved from their old office when he was abroad.
Gordon warned Dargani and Ong at the latest hearing there is a standing decision by senators to commit them to the Pasay City Jail, but he would hold such in abeyance on their promise to produce the papers, mostly financial documents on the cost of sales of the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., the low-capital startup that bagged an estimated P8 billion to P10 billion in pandemic supply contracts in a batch questioned by the Commission on Audit (COA).
OSAA chief retired General Rene Samonte informed Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Gordon at the weekend that their team, assigned to escort Dargani and Ong, was unable to proceed with the retrieval mission because the two would not give exact addresses. The OSAA escorts were only told they could go to a warehouse, an office or a residence. The OSAA told them they could go to all three, but they needed exact addresses before leaving the Senate premises. Gordon had warned them earlier against leading the Senate security officers “on a wild goose chase.”
Told that their lawyer knows the locations, the OSAA called up Attorney Donn Kapunan, but the counsel sounded surprised and did not know the venues.
At that point, the OSAA deemed it futile to engage the Pharmally executives and wrote the Senate leaders for authority to move the two to Pasay jail, which Sotto and Gordon approved.
With the commitment order, Dargani and Ong may be transferred to the Pasay City Jail on Monday (November 29), but Dargani’s younger sister Twinkle, whom he had named company president but claimed no involvement nor knowledge of the “operations, financials, transactions” of the firm, will stay in the Senate premises, so she can get medical attention.
Dargani has claimed she has mental health issues.
At the Friday hearing—the Blue Ribbon panel’s 15th on the investigation sparked by COA’s report on the Department of Health funds transferred to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management—Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon reiterated their need to get hold of financial documents. He noted that many things in their regulatory filings, especially the financial statement and tax payments, “do not add up.”
Gordon noted last Friday Mohit Dargani’s evasiveness when senators asked him again about the whereabouts of the documents, which Gordon said was crucial to Pharmally proving its professed willingness to cooperate with the Blue Ribbon.
Shielding bigger fish?–de Lima
Meanwhile, Sen. Leila M. de Lima at the weekend raised the possibility that much bigger fish are being shielded by the Pharmally officials; hence, their apparent readiness to transfer to Pasay City Jail, rather than produce damning documents and risk reprisals from powerful cohorts.
“A truly curious, even suspicious, turn of events happened in yesterday’s Blue Ribbon Committee hearing,” she said, noting that witnesses Dargani and Ong themselves signalled their willingness to be locked up at the Pasay City Jail. “This, of course, brings us to wonder: why are they willing to suffer the physical and mental indignity of being locked up in a City Jail? Only two possibilities come to mind,” de Lima said.
In a statement from her detention cell in Camp Crame, the senator added: “First, they have been reassured by higher authorities that they won’t really suffer as much indignity as they fear under the custody of the BJMP. Second, they are so overwhelmed with fear of reprisal that they would rather be locked up than testify about the whole truth of the Pharmally Scam. After all, it would appear that the money trail does not end with the Pharmally officials. So, have they been made aware in no uncertain terms that what they will suffer at the City Jail is nothing compared to what will be done to them if they start telling the truth and revealing the identities of the Pharmally heist’s ultimate beneficiaries?”
“Or, perhaps, the answer is both,” de Lima said.
There is, added the senator, “only one glaring and reverberating fact in this whole scenario: there is still a huge gap in the story that these Pharmally officials are so reluctant to tell, that they are willing to go into hiding, flee from the country and, now, even go to jail for. All these billions were not simply handed over to them by Lloyd Christopher Lao and the DBM-PS by sheer reason that they were suppliers. Some people bigger than the Darganis and Linconn Ong profited from this shameless rape of the nation’s coffers in the time of a pandemic.”
She supported the decision of Gordon and the Committee as a whole, “to use the full powers of the Committee and the Senate in going to the very bottom of the 8-billion peso heist, including the power to send the Pharmally officials to Pasay City Jail.”