HomeCommentaryGood news for Pharmally: COVID supply sales up anew

Good news for Pharmally: COVID supply sales up anew

Pharmally and its government gangmates can get back to monkey business. COVID scare is resurging, along with pandemic supply sales. None of the pillagers in 2020-2021 are in jail. Abettors have been spared from indictment. The obvious lesson: crime pays.

Chinese-owned Pharmally Pharmaceutical stole P12.5 billion from the government in just two years. It began with only P625,000-capital. Inactive in 2019, it recorded a P25,550 loss at yearend. No experience whatsoever, no staff, no office, no warehouse, no vehicle.

But it had connections all the way to the top. That’s all it needed.

In March 2020, the Procurement Service-Dept. of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) awarded Pharmally an initial P7.5-billion supply contract. It delivered faulty or fake facemasks, face shields, personal protective equipment, thermometers, and COVID test kits. By the end of 2020, it declared P318.3 million taxable income.

State auditors uncovered Pharmally’s racket in yearend 2020. They questioned the Health department, then under Sec. Francisco Duque, for letting PS-DBM procure specialized medical needs. Other Chinese firms, including a state-owned seller of farm machinery, had wangled pandemic contracts totaling P42 billion. Elbowed out were accredited Filipino suppliers.

A Senate inquiry ensued in Aug. 2021. Amid hearings, PS-DBM granted Pharmally P5 billion more deals.

Today, the government is again warning of virus uptick. Infectees are told to self-isolate and asymptomatics to self-quarantine. Travelers from 24 countries with rising COVID cases are to be screened at air and sea ports. Filipinos are buying up masks, PPEs, test kits. Scarcity and sleaze will enable more plunder.

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Yang Hongming, alias Michael Yang, founded Pharmally. The Chinese national resides in Davao City where he befriended the Duterte political dynasty. So close is he to them that President Rody Duterte in 2018 made him “special economic adviser”.

Yang emblazoned the title on his office door and business card. It empowered him to branch out from construction and real estate. At one point he was the “kingpin of vegetable smuggling,” Sen. Raffy Tulfo said in Oct. 2022.

Yang kept a low profile in Pharmally. He placed two Chinese pals as fronts: Singapore Huang Tzu Yen as chairman, and mainlander Lin Weixiong as finance manager. Lin withdrew huge amounts from Pharmally for Yang, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) and Ombudsman found out.

For seven months Lin snubbed Senate subpoenas to testify. His Filipina wife Rose Nono Lin claimed he was on business travel in Dubai. She admitted to leasing three mansions in Makati’s posh Dasmariñas Village and Forbes Park, each for at least P750,000 a month. She said she was often surprised to find new luxury cars in her garages.

Rose disavowed her husband’s role in Pharmally Pharmaceutical, only in the supposed parent Pharmally Biological. But BRC head Sen. Dick Gordon confronted her with a BIR document showing Lin to be Pharmally Pharmaceutical’s finance chief. In 2022 Rose ran and lost for congresswoman in Quezon City.

Pharmally had four other directors: president Twinkle Dargani, treasurer-secretary Mohit Dargani, Linconn Ong, and Justine Garado. In 2020 Pharmally gave the first three brand-new sportscars. Twinkle got a Lamborghini worth P13 million. Mohit, a Porsche, P8.5 million. Ong, two Porsches, P13.5 million and P8.85 million, and a Lexus, P5.9 million.

At the height of the Senate inquiry in Nov. 2021, the Dargani siblings attempted to flee the country. Senate deputies interdicted them at Davao City airport aboard a chartered jet about to take off for Kuala Lumpur. “Flight is guilt,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros said then.

Ong downplayed his job in Pharmally as a mere translator. But photos presented at the BRC showed him playing a key role during a 2020 meeting of Duterte, Yang, Lin, and Huang. The BRC detained Ong and Mohit for seven months at the Pasay City jail for perjury and defying subpoenas for Pharmally’s financial records.

Ong later admitted to dealing with PS-DBM chief Llyod Christopher Lao and procurement director Warren Rex Liong. Duterte had appointed them there. College fraternity mates, they were Davao City hall lawyers when “Brod Rody” was mayor. Duterte later placed Liong as the overall deputy ombudsman. “Covering their tracks?” senators Franklin Drilon and Francis Pangilinan said.

In Aug. 2023 the Office of the Ombudsman recommended filing of graft charges against Huang, the Darganis, Ong, Garado, Lao, and Liong. Also implicated were PS-DBM procurement officers Paul Jasper de Guzman, Christine Marie Suntay, Webster Laureñana, August Ylagan, and Jasonmer Uayan. As well as Pharmally manager Krizle Grace Mago.

Before that, March 2023, Liong was preventively suspended for six months as overall deputy ombudsman.

Only in May 2024 was Lin included in the complaint. All have yet to be indicted before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.

Yang, present whereabouts unknown, and Duque were excluded.

Duterte cussed the BRC throughout its five-month hearings.

Gordon finished the inquiry on Feb. 1, 2022. He recommended the indictment of all the above, especially Yang and Duque.

Proposed for indictment too at term end was Duterte, for condoning irregularities and failing to restrain his appointees and business cronies.

Four BRC members refused to sign the report due to its inclusion of Duterte: Miguel Zubiri, Imee Marcos, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Juan Edgardo Angara. Failing to muster BRC majority signatures, Gordon’s report never reached the senate plenary.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS News.

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