The risks of not voting on Pharmally report | Inquirer Opinion

The risks of not voting on Pharmally report

Last week, Sen. Richard Gordon, who chairs the Senate blue ribbon committee, released the 113-page draft report on the months-long Senate investigation into the government’s use of pandemic funds and its transactions with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. The report recommends the filing of plunder, graft, and other criminal charges against Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, former budget undersecretary Llyod Christopher Lao, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Rex Warren Liong, Chinese businessman Michael Yang, and Pharmally executives.

The report also says that at some point after his term of office, charges must be considered against President Duterte because he “betrayed the public trust” when he appointed Yang as his economic adviser and allowed him to help Pharmally, a newly created undercapitalized firm, bag almost P12-billion contract with the government. The report further says that Mr. Duterte also betrayed public trust when he sought to discredit not just the Senate but also the Commission on Audit, whose state auditors first reported on the anomalies in the Pharmally deals.


The senators will vote on the report in the plenary. Majority of the senators must approve the report for it to become official. Only then can the report be formally sent to the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman. Said Gordon: “I hope the Senate will not be divided. It will be tragic if we will be divided on a partisan basis. We should only be divided between truth and lies. I hope my colleagues will side with the truth.”

Given the inquisitorial role taken by Senators Frank Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Kiko Pangilinan, and Panfilo Lacson during the hearings, it can be assumed that they will sign the report. Their respective party mates Senators Leila de Lima and Tito Sotto can also be expected to sign it. Sen. Manny Pacquiao has expressed full support for the report.


Considering that the hearings were televised, exposing to the electorate the apparent anomalous transactions of Pharmally and the obvious attempts of the President to disrupt the probe and to shield certain officials from being questioned, a senator voting “No” on the report would draw politically tragic consequences.

Senators Win Gatchalian, Migz Zubiri, and Joel Villanueva are running for re-election. Imee Marcos’ brother, Bongbong, is running for president. Cynthia Villar’s son, Mark, and Pia Cayetano’s brother, Alan Peter, are also running for the Senate.

In 2019, Senators Gatchalian, Zubiri, Ralph Recto, Grace Poe, and Nancy Binay were among those who signed Senator Gordon’s report that stated that former president Benigno Aquino was guilty of malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance in connection with his mass immunization program using the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. A “No” vote by them on the Pharmally case would damage their credibility.

This brings to mind the impeachment trial of then President Joseph Estrada. On Jan. 16, 2001, the trial moved to the investigation of an envelope believed to contain evidence proving that Estrada had received bribe money. His allies in the Senate tried to block the opening of the envelope and called for a vote.

Those who voted not to open the envelope containing the supposed incriminating evidence were Senators Blas Ople, Juan Ponce Enrile, Nikki Coseteng, Gregorio Honasan, Robert Jaworski, Tessie Oreta, John Osmeña, Ramon Revilla, Miriam Santiago, Tito Sotto, and Francisco Tatad. The press branded them the Craven Eleven.

Tatad, Honasan, Jaworski, Osmeña, and Santiago all lost their bids for re-election. Coseteng, having reached her term limit as senator, ran for representative of her congressional district, but lost ignominiously. Oreta deemed it wise not to run for office again and instead fielded her daughter as representative of the Oretas’ political bailiwick. She lost. Ople and Revilla decided to retire from politics.

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Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. was in charge of public opinion research at Robot Statistics, the first public opinion pollster in the country and the Philippine affiliate of Gallup Poll.

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