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Pharmally execs moved to jail over hidden docs; Senate probe continues

Pharmally executives Mohit Dargani (in dark shirt, face covered, with hood) and Linconn Ong (white shirt in front) are escorted by the Senate’s Office of the Sergeant at Arms (OSSA) and Pasay City Police as they enter the Pasay City Jail compound past noon of Monday. Ong and Dargani were moved from the Senate to the city jail for not honoring an agreement to bring financial documents to the Blue Ribbon Committee, which is investigating anomalies in pandemic-related contracts.

SENATE probers said the continued refusal of Pharmally executives now detained at the Pasay City Jail to provide vital documents will not derail the chamber’s investigation into multi-billion anomalies in the contracts for pandemic supplies.

In a statement on Monday as the Senate’s Sergeant at Arms escorted to Pasay jail Mohit Dargani and Linconn Ong—who failed to honor a commitment last Friday to retrieve financial documents on Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. that senators demanded—Sen. Richard  Gordon said the Blue Ribbon committee which he chairs will continue its work until the whole truth is unravelled.

He said the senators had no choice but  to cite in contempt and transfer to Pasay City Jail  suppliers Dargani and Ong for “continuous lying and refusing to answer questions truthfully and forthrightly.”

Gordon lamented that their constant “palusot” [habits of evasiveness] have crossed the line.

Invoking public interest, the senator vowed to “dig up the truth behind the overpricing of supplies, and the favoritism granted a company [Pharmally], whose capitalization was only P625,000, with contracts amounting to billions of pesos.” Senators had variously estimated the total of contracts bagged by the startup Pharmally, despite its low capital and lack of track record, at between P8 billion and P10 billion.

“If we do not go into the bottom of this scandal,” Gordon said, “we will not be able to hold accountable those responsible; and, the repetition of such a dastardly deed becomes a high probability still.”

Gordon noted that the Philippine Senate, half of a coequal branch of government, has been granted powers of legislation and oversight by the Constitution, adding: “It works through Committees, one of which is the Blue Ribbon Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations.”

“All matters relating  to, including investigation of, malfeasance, misfeasance and nonfeasance in office  by  officers and employees of the government, its branches, agencies, subdivisions and  instrumentalities; implementation of the provision of the Constitution on nepotism;  and investigation of any matter of  public  interest on its own initiative or brought to its attention by any member of the Senate.”

Invoking Rule X, Section 13 (36), the senator pointed out that “in the exercise of its powers and prerogatives, the Committee, when faced with lying witnesses and disrespectful resource persons, is not bereft of compulsory processes to ensure that the institution of the Senate is respected, its honor preserved and its integrity maintained whole.”

Gordon recalled that in the investigation into the DOH expenditures of funds for Covid-19 response, the Committee’s work has faced obstacles to deter, delay, or otherwise side-track its course.

He lamented that Mohit and his sister Twinkle Dargani, and Linconn Ong, have been “evasive in answering questions, uttered lies, and spewed falsities, forcing the Committee to exercise its rarely used powers of contempt, ordering the incarceration of the three.” While Mohit and Ong were moved to Pasay jail on Monday, senators let Twinkle stay in the Senate premises, so she can be visited by medical specialists, on claims she has “mental health” issues.

Gordon noted that the Darganis hid from the Senate, after having been cited for contempt, frustrating the OSAA from taking a hold of them. “Because of well-meaning citizens and public officers’ tips, the Senate was able to arrest them as they were about to escape to Kuala Lumpur via a private jet hired for that specific purpose,” Gordon said, adding; “There is a legal principle that tells us that flight is an indication of guilt.”

At Friday’s hearing after their apprehension, Gordon recalled that, when asked about documents needed to complete the investigation, “Mr. Dargani averred that they were in boxes located somewhere.”

The senators accommodated his request, and allowed “Dargani to confer with Mr. Linconn Ong for the purpose of locating the supposed boxes of documents,” the senator recalled.

On Saturday, the OSAA made arrangements for the trip outside the Senate to retrieve the documents. But the trip could not materialize as Dargani “kept making excuses pointing to three probable locations: office, residence, or warehouse. He was informed by OSAA that they could go to all three locations but Mr.Dargani hemmed and hawed, resulting in the cancellation of the trip,” Gordon rued.

To preserve and protect the institution, he added the senators decided to transfer them to the Pasay jail, noting that “their continuing presence in the Senate premises also put a strain” on an overstretched OSAA, whose primary function is to protect the Senate building, secure the people coming in and out, especially the employees, and because of the pandemic, making sure that those who enter the building are free from the virus that has caused many lives both in and out of Senate premises.

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