By John Victor D. Ordoñez, Reporter

THE OMBUDSMAN has ordered that graft charges be filed against seven former and present officials of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and recommended their dismissal from government service over the questionable purchase of P4.16 billion worth COVID-19 test kits from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation in 2020.

In a resolution signed by Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires, dated Aug. 14 and made public on Thursday, a panel of Ombudsman investigators found probable cause to file three counts of graft charges against three former senior PS-DBM officials and one count of the same charge for the four others.

At the same time, similar charges under section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were recommended by the panel for filing against six Pharmally executives and employees over the alleged anomalous purchases that caused the government “undue injury.”

In addition, the resolution found three of the former senior PS-DBM officials and one other guilty of the following administrative charges: grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

The Ombudsman recommended that they be dismissed, disqualified perpetually from government service and penalized with the forfeiture of any retirement benefit.

All these stemmed from three multi-billion-peso supply deals the PS-DBM sealed with Pharmally. “They apparently acted with manifest partiality and in bad faith for unlawfully and willingly awarding the contracts to a newly incorporated corporation and without any business experience with the government,” the Ombudsman said.

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, counsel for the Pharmally officials, said he was greatly saddened by the indictment of certain private persons” and labeled the Senate investigation into the mess in 2021 as a “kangaroo court.”

“While we respect the resolution of the Ombudsman, we hope it is not true, as we have heard, that pressure was brought to bear by some politicians in an attempt to redeem themselves or to boost their political stock,” Mr. Topacio was quoted as saying in a report.