Yang asks SC to ‘limit’ scope of Senate probe into P42-B pandemic fund mess


Former presidential adviser and Duterte businessman-friend Michael Yang is asking the Supreme Court to bar Senate probers from demanding records from Yang’s companies that he claimed have nothing to do with the Senate’s constitutional mandate to craft laws or conduct inquiries in aid of legislation.

Lawyer Raymond Fortun said his client was forced to file a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the High Court because the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (BRC) has overstepped its mandate and has been compelling Yang, who is based in Davao, to provide the BRC documents on his companies’ enrollment of their employees in SSS, Pag-Ibig and PhilHealth, among others.

In his petition, Yang asked the Court to nullify and lift the warrant of arrest that the Senate issued against him last September 21. He also asked the SC to nullify the lookout bulletin that was issued, at the Senate’s behest, as such is an infringement of his constitutional right to travel.

Yang thinks the Blue Ribbon panel is overreaching in its questions and its demand for documents that have nothing to do with the inquiry, such as documents on properties and other assets.

These matters—on properties and assets, and documents for the social security enrollments—are not pertinent to the ongoing Senate investigation into the “use of P42 billion in Department of Health funds” for pandemic supplies that were transferred to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), Fortun said in a radio interview before he went to the Supreme Court.

“Looking into the tax liabilities of corporations—that’s the job of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; checking the ACRs of aliens—that’s for the Bureau of Immigration,” Fortun added.

He noted that Yang recently received a letter of authority from the BIR, which has apparently begun looking into tax records of one of his companies, indicating, Fortun noted in Filipino, “that the process has advanced.”

Meanwhile, he asserted that the Senate has no standing to question tax liabilities.

Not stopping inquiry

Fortun stressed, “We are not asking for a stop to the inquiry, acknowledging the chamber’s constitutional mandate, but only to delimit the scope of the inquiry.”

The lawyer assured that Yang will continue to attend the BRC hearings virtually, while the SC has yet to decide on their urgent petition.

“Ang layo na po ng issue; hindi na po maganda iyan ,” Fortun added.

He lamented as well that besides demanding documents from Yang that were not germane to the investigation, the BRC has infringed on the constitutional right of his client to be deemed innocent until proven guilty because the Blue Ribbon panel, chaired by Sen. Richard J. Gordon, has treated supposed “resource persons” like suspects, occasionally scolding and shaming them.

He said the process smacks of a “fishing expedition” to keep demanding for documents in the hopes of spotting “a possible error” on his client’s part.

Fortun reiterated what his client had kept telling Senate probers: his only role in the case of the Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. was to link it to some Chinese suppliers of face masks, shields, among other pandemic-related items.

Yang has denied providing funds to Pharmally, a Singapore-based top executive disclosed to senators in one hearing.

“No evidence has been shown to prove that Michael Yang gave funds to Pharmally,” Fortun said. “Have they proven that even a centavo of public funds ended up in Michael Yang’s companies?” Fortun asked aloud.

The substance and manner of questions do not fit into the Senate’s oversight mandate, the lawyer added.

Fortun also asserted “the Senate is not the best venue to clear Michael Yang’s name.”

“Acting with grave abuse of discretion amounting to a lack or excess of jurisdiction, the respondent Senate Committee had violated the petitioner’s rights to privacy by compelling him to reveal his properties, corporate papers and business transactions despite the same not having any connection to the matter in inquiry, including asking about his supposed links to illegal drugs despite the sheer absence of evidence of his engagement therein,” Yang said.

Echoing President Duterte’s statements in one of his tirades against Gordon and BRC members, Fortun dared senators to simply “file a case” against concerned parties “if they see something wrong.”

The BRC will hold its 14th hearing on Friday (November 26), with the focus expected to be on the Dargani siblings, top Pharmally executives now detained at the Senate after they went into hiding and were caught in Davao as they were about to take a chartered flight to Malaysia.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros revealed on Wednesday that the aborted chartered flight was booked for a whopping P1.85 million, and the Darganis must explain who put up the money that was raised, since they paid “puny” sums in taxes last year.

Gordon earlier sought documents from the local partner of the Singapore-based owner of the Learjet, to determine who booked the two flights of Mohit and Twinkle Dargani—first, from Davao-Singapore-Davao; and the aborted flight from Davao-Kuala Lumpur.

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