The chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is expected to make a final pitch for his colleagues to finally vote on the draft committee report prepared by his office into the Pharmally pandemic supplies fiasco, which probers estimate to have cost some P10 billion in anomalous contracts.
Late Tuesday, Senator Richard J. Gordon delivered a Privilege Speech to “inform the public of our findings of these matters of public interest investigated through 18 hearings throughout seven months, detailed in our Report, and I move that our Draft Report be inserted into the Senate’s Records.”
The Senate chief prober lamented that as Congress was set to wind up Tuesday afternoon, before the 18th Senate was to adjourn (from June 4 to July 24), only eight members of the Blue Ribbon have signed the report, meaning, it lacked two more signatures to be tackled in plenary and voted on.
Gordon said that the members should at least act either to endorse the draft as is or indicate their intent to raise reservations on some items or vote against it. But, he stressed, it was important for the plenary to tackle the report, given its subject matter is of “transcendental importance amounting to at least P11 billion of the people’s money,” and at stake is “the integrity, dignity, and independence of the Senate.”
He reminds that the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (Blue Ribbon), was created primarily “to make findings (or judgments), if you will, on malfeasance,
misfeasance, or non- feasance, committed by public officers and their cohorts, eg., those in the private sector. Therefore, the Senate is accountable, too, to the people to report on its findings and to tell the people what we have done in this investigation. We owe them no less.”
Sen. Gordon reminded his peers that the BRC’s “findings or recommendations are of great persuasive nature, especially when seen in the light of the convictions of former Commissioners Argosino and Robles of the Bureau of Immigration; and the filing of criminal cases and eventual detention of the accused in the drug cases that we had previously investigated.”
For this particular investigation on Pharmally, Gordon said, “We owe it to our constituents – the people of this Republic – whether or not we are in favor of the draft Partial Committee Report. Our mandates command us no less.”
“At the onset, I was touched by our healthcare workers, who,” he added, “despite being our frontliners, had to plead with the government just so they could receive the salaries, benefits, and allowances.”
According to Sen. Imee Marcos, several senators like her did not sign the Blue Ribbon report, even if they participated in the hearings because they felt that Gordon’s inclusion of President Duterte among those to be held accountable — for betrayal of public trust — tended to weaken the report since the evidence was not strong in that regard.
Gordon, however, noted in his privilege speech that the main players in the apparent scam were emboldened by their ties to the President, who also publicly bullied the senators, as well as the COA, in a bid to discourage them from probing the matter.
Particularly close to Duterte is Davao businessman Michael Yang, whom Gordon said had financed the operations of Pharmally.
“But our investigation further led us to a clear, disconcerting, and evidence-based findings of fraud, waste, and abuse pursuant to the Report of the Commission on Audit. When we went further down that rabbit hole, the Executive viciously attacked COA and the Senate.”
Since then, Gordon added, “issues of grave importance – the separation of powers among the great branches of government; the right of the Senate to exercise its oversight functions; and, the right of the public to know – have arisen.”