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Defending plunder?

Malacañang’s defense of the alleged overprice of pandemic supplies worth P8.7 billion procured by government from an undercapitalized company which included an attempt to divert the issue of liability by comparing the amounts paid by the previous administration for similar items came under fire from three senators on Thursday.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon had earlier said both Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) chief Lloyd Christopher Lao could be held liable for the “premeditated plunder” of the government’s response funds that went to favored suppliers, including the mysterious Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp which cornered P8.7 billion worth of contracts despite its P625,000 capitalization.

As Drilon said the items bought from Pharmally were overpriced, Sen. Risa Hontiveros revealed that key officers of the dubious company and its mother company Pharmally International Holding Co. Ltd. were wanted by Taiwanese authorities for financial crimes in Taiwan.

The shady transaction continues to be defended by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque who instead of promising a swift and thorough investigation into the matter, insists there is no overprice, particularly with regard to the 2 million PPE sets sold by Pharmally at P1,910 per set totaling a whopping P3.82 billion.

Roque attempted to shift culpability away from the issue by saying the Aquino administration purchased 6,000 PPE sets in 2015 and 2016 for P3,500 to P3,800 each, amounting to P13.54 million, during a time when global concerns over Ebola and MERS-CoV were emerging. This transaction that was conveniently dug up to justify the issue of overpricing was not flagged by the Commission on Audit as questionable.

It would be a massive understatement to say the matter of an undercapitalized company whose officials are wanted for financial crimes somehow snagging a P8.7 billion deal involving allegedly overpriced items has a whiff of corruption. As a self-proclaimed crusader against corruption, President Rodrigo Duterte should be distancing himself from the deal and everyone involved instead of having his spokesperson defending them vigorously.

When will the executive branch spring into action to defend the Filipino people and our funds instead of officials being accused of plunder by launching a full and impartial investigation into such a serious matter?*

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