The Senate investigation into the anomalies surrounding the Philippine government’s contract with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals is turning for the worse, on the account of President Rodrigo Duterte’s evident efforts to strong-arm the senators into submission.
Red flags have kept popping up from the blue ribbon hearings pointing to a massive fraud involving a minuscule company bagging lucrative deals with the government running up to billions of pandemic funds.
The probe itself is proving to be a challenge at getting the facts in place, with Pharmally officials and its cohorts including former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang trying to evade the hard questions at every turn. This, as the administration peddles the argument that there is no basis for the investigation, that there was no overpricing and the company had supposedly delivered the purchases.
President Duterte has taken the offensive to push back the Senate hearings, singling out its chair Sen. Richard Gordon with ad hominem attacks and imagined allegations of corruption by the Philippine Red Cross that he chairs in a private capacity. Administration allies in the House of Representatives also recently chimed into the controversy, supporting the Palace narrative that the Pharmally deals were above board.
Even the otherwise subdued Sen. Bong Go who had erstwhile been content with simply being seen seated beside the president, came out on his own with a feigned curse and an expression of displeasure over the turn of events. He demanded, nay advised, his colleagues in the chamber to wrap up everything and bring the matter to the Ombudsman – with the promise that neither the president nor him will ever be corrupt nor will they countenance any wrongdoing.
What started as a curious inquiry by some Senators on accounting irregularities pointed out by the Commission on Audit in the manner the Department of Health dispensed billions of its pandemic funds is fast evolving into a crisis of political leadership. All this, because President Duterte chose to block the investigation instead of allowing the same to take its natural course. There was no justification for that, except to obviate his personal displeasure at having been placed under scrutiny by a co-equal branch of government.
There has been no precedent in the recent history of the Senate and the presidency coming to a head this way, as there is no telling how the political crisis will resolve. The foregone conclusion that there were massive anomalies involving the executive department in the granting of pandemic contracts to Pharmally is already established by the probe, for all intents and purposes. The question now is, so what?