SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Surigao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Johnny Ty Pimentel believes that several misconceptions about the government’s transactions with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. have been successfully debunked by resource persons invited to the hearings of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability.
Pimentel, the committee’s vice chair, said the House probe served as a venue to clear some issues about the procurement of COVID-19 supplies from Pharmally by the Department of Health (DOH), through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).
“Una, there was a misconception that the face shields were overpriced. ‘Yon po ang perception ng tao because sa Senado lumabas nga ‘yong issue na overpriced daw,” Pimentel said during Wednesday’s virtual Ugnayan sa Batasan media forum.
He added: “Upon clarifying these issues, it was found out that the face shields were not overpriced at all. In fact, even COA (Commission on Audit) Chairman Mike Aguinaldo testified in the Senate that in the COA Report, they never mentioned the overpricing.”
Pimentel said that according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has the mandate to monitor prices of all basic commodities in times of calamities and emergencies, the demand for face masks at the height of the pandemic drove prices high.
“At that time, the price monitored for face mask was 100 to 120 pesos, this was because of the scarcity of the items at that time. Nung lumuwag na ‘yong supply ng face mask, bumaba na,” he said.
The veteran lawmaker said that the committee was also able to establish in the first three hearings that there were no ghost deliveries of the procured items.
“The items—the 500,000 masks supplied by Pharmally were inspected and properly accounted and delivered to PS-DBM. So klaro po ‘yon, in fact there were several signatories, marami po tayong resource persons, one of which is Mr. George Mendoza na tinanong natin kasi sya ang nag-receive ng mga items. Kumpleto po ng mga dokumento, na pati ‘yong mga frontliners who received the face mask ay properly documented po,” Pimentel said. Mendoza is former PS-DBM inspection division chief.
The third misconception clarified during the hearings were the claims that the bulk of the P42-B fund utilized for COVID-related purchases under the Bayanihan 1 heavily favored Pharmally.
“Pinakita ng mga resource persons dun that actually sa PPE, there were 17 suppliers. And then dun sa face mask naman there were 8 suppliers, karamihan dun mga local suppliers na. One of that is EMS. Hindi po na-corner ng Pharmally ‘yong bulk,” Pimentel said.
The committee hearings also refuted claims that the process of procurement from Pharmally was illegal as it did not follow the provisions of RA 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
Pimentel explained that normally, purchases made by government agencies must undergo competitive public bidding.
“However, merong provisions na nilagay ang Kongreso doon sa Bayanihan 1 that these requirements are not needed for negotiated procurement under emergency cases. May provisions sa Bayanihan 1 Act na (under) abnormal conditions, emergency yung purchase natin, madalian because lives were at stake. It was a matter of life and death,” Pimentel explained.
He also emphasized that the country was “caught off-guard” when the pandemic hit, and government was then scrambling for COVID-19 related equipment to distribute to the country’s overwhelmed health workers. This prompted the Executive and Congress to come up with the necessary measures to swiftly address and mitigate the effects of the pandemic on the country’s health sector.
“Kasalanan ba ng gobyerno? Kasalanan ba ng Presidente o ng ahensya na tayo ay nagmamadali because at stake ang buhay ng mga frontliners natin? Wala silang mga face mask, wala silang face shield, PPE. Eh punong-puno na ang mga ospital,” he stressed.