The Senate is currently investigating how an obscure company, Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, was able to corner close to P8.7 billion in supply contracts from the Duterte administration since the COVID-19 pandemic started last year.
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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon likened Pharmally’s windfall to winning the lottery, since the contracts caused the company’s income to soar from zero to P284.9 million in 2020.
“Malayo po ang nakuha ng next-in-rank supplier, P1.9 billion lamang. Para pong tumama sa lotto ang Pharmally,” he said during the August 27 hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Here’s a timeline of the events that led to what Senator Panfilo Lacson described as “not just plunder but large scale corruption of state borrowed funds in the middle of pandemic.”
* 17 March 2017 – President Rodrigo Duterte’s economic adviser Michael Yang introduced top officials of Pharmally International of Taiwan to the Chief Executive at a meeting in Malacañang.
* 4 October 2018 – The President cleared Yang of alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade, saying that China’s former Ambassador Zhao Jinhua even slept in Yang’s house
* March 2019 -Eduardo Acierto, former deputy director for administration of the now-disbanded PNP Drug Enforcement Group, linked Duterte’s adviser to suspected illegal drug activities; Acierto supposedly submitted the intelligence report to his superiors in 2017 but his report was swept under the rug.
* 5 August 2019 – President Duterte appointed Wendel Avisado as Budget Secretary after Benjamin Diokno was named Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
* September 2019 – Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. filed incorporation papers with a paid-up capital of P625,000
* 2 January 2020 – Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao was appointed officer-in-charge of Procurement Service (PS), an attached agency of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
*9 March 2020 – President Duterte declared state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
* 24 March 2020 – President Duterte signed P275-billion COVID-19 stimulus package, which granted him special powers to address the pandemic.
* April 14 to June 10, 2020 – Lao signed nine contracts awarding P8-billion worth of contracts to Pharmally. The company supplied several supplies related to the pandemic, including personal protective equipment, surgical masks, face shields and RT-PCR test kits.
* 16 April 2020 – Fourteen senators signed a resolution urging Health Secretary Francisco Duque III due to his “failure of leadership, negligence, lack of foresight, and inefficiency” in handling the public health crisis.
*Second to third quarter of 2020 –Duque transferred P42 billion from the Department of Health to the DBM. He told senators during the August 27 hearing that this was done to fast-track the acquisition of supplies
* June 2021 – Lao resigned from DBM
* 21 June 2021 – Pharmally bagged a P774-million contract from DBM to supply 17,000 RT-PCR test kits.
* 2 August 2021 – Avisado went on leave from DBM after contracting COVID-19.
* 12 August 2021 – The Commission on Audit flags DOH’s inefficient use of over P67 billion in COVID-19 funds, including P42.4 billion deployed without proper documents; and P11.9 billion unused funds or the purchase of medical equipment and supplies, and hiring of additional health workers.
* 13 August 2021 – Avisado announced his resignation as DBM Secretary to recover from COVID-19.
* 16 August 2021 – After public uproar over its audit report on the DOH, COA clarified that its findings did not mention corruption in the DOH’s use of funds. It explained that P42.4 billion of the amount it flagged consisted of fund transfers to procurement/implementing partner-agencies without the required documentation.
* 16 August 2021 – DOH said the “deficiencies” flagged by COA in the audit report for 2020 have been “mostly resolved.” The agency said there was no need for a memorandum of agreement regarding certain transactions since the items procured — such as PPEs, testing kits—were classified as common-use supplies due to the pandemic.
* 24 August 2021 – President Duterte, who previously stood by Duque amid corruption allegations, said he will accept the Health Secretary’s resignation if Duque decides to quit.
* 27 August 2021 – Lao appeared at the Senate blue ribbon committee’s hearing to explain PS-DBM’s role in procuring supplies for DOH. Senators were dismayed by his evasive answers on why DBM awarded the multibillion-peso contracts to Pharmally despite the company’s lack of track record.