THE Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Friday pressed questions regarding the missing files of Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) which would have been used for the investigation into its controversial procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.
During the resumption of the hearing, Senator Francis Pangilinan shared that 19 subpoenaed documents submitted by PS-DBM in the morning of September 10 have been eventually deleted in the afternoon of the same day from Google Drive—a cloud storage the Blue Ribbon panel is using to gather data transactions of Pharmally and the procurement agency.
Pangilinan said that they initially thought it was a mere “technical glitch” but upon further observation, he claimed that a PS-DBM staff has purposely deleted the files.
“This is P4.4 billion worth of purchases na nawawala ang 19 inspection reports. It was there in the morning and it was no longer uploaded [in the afternoon] and somebody from your end took it down,” he stressed.
PS-DBM operations director Jolas Brutas has responded to the allegation on behalf of PS-DBM executive director Jasonmer Uayan, who did not manage to attend the hearing after testing positive for COVID-19.
Brutas hypothesized that a PS-DBM staff must have moved the files from the “test kits” folder to another folder exclusively made for PPE sets and loose items.
“I think the earlier submission pertains to PPE sets and loose items. I think that’s for the September 10 submission so that’s why, I suppose, that’s the reason why some of the inspection reports with respect to the test kits were, if it’s true, our staff really removed these items [during] the earlier submission,” he explained.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, however, pointed out that the problem lies not with the wrong label of folder but as to how the documents—deemed a public property—have been missing.
“What we are looking for are the documents which were there and disappeared – whether or not it pertains to the subject. It was there, specified, and then it disappeared,” Drilon told Brutas.
“Mr. Brutas, let me warn you. This is a public document. I would suggest to our good Chairman, compel them to produce and again, you know, stop playing [around us]. These are public documents and it is such a crime on the penal code, infidelity in the custody of public documents. That is a criminal offense,” he added.
He said that Brutas will be given an opportunity to “not get [himself] in trouble” as long as he cooperates and submit again the files necessary for further probe of the Senate.
While Brutas and Uayan have access to the Google Drive links, the former claimed that there exists another staff who is responsible for uploading the files.
Without much awareness of the fact that the files were missing, Brutas still then insisted his previous statement, which did not sit well with the senators.
Pangilinan’s speculation is that the inspection reports of COVID-19 test kits, thermo guns, and medicines must have been deleted on purpose to tamper and replace the files with its revised version.
“I suggest that the sergeant-at-arms try and find out: Are we being hoodwinked? Are documents being withheld? Is there a cover-up? Is DBM-PS staff involved in a cover-up?” he posited.
Blue ribbon committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon said that the same incident happened after he learned from Atty. Queenie Evangelista, the panel’s lawyer, that a set of files uploaded on August 26 likewise went missing upon re-checking.
Amid the hearing, Gordon shared that one of the missing files were uploaded back to the folder which—as he believed—appears that staff are “deliberately filching with documents” and that they can be prosecuted for doing so.
In response, Brutas told senators that he will make sure that the supplemental documents will be submitted again.
“I’ll have it investigated; on who removed such documents upon submission. We will report this matter to the committee after the completion of this investigation. If there are missing documents and inspection reports which have not been submitted, we undertake to submit them as soon as possible,” he said.
The inquiry came after Pangilinan raised the concern and emphasized that some of the missing reports they managed to download—as he recalled—helped the panel to find out important transactions and support their claims.
These include PS-DBM’s purchase of P550-million worth of COVID-19 test kits from Pharmally which later got expired without being used.
PS-DBM is under fire and now subject of the legislators’ probe, following their anomalous P8.6 billion worth of contracts with Pharmally for procurement of COVID-19 medical supplies.
(PHOTO CREDIT: legacy.senate.gov.ph)