'Laughable,' Hontiveros Says of Bribery, Sedition Raps Over Face Shield Probe

The senator is facing a complaint before the Ombudsman.
Photo/s: Risa Hontiveros/Facebook

Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday denied bribing an employee of a face shield supplier that was supposedly favored by the government, as alleged in a complaint filed before the Ombudsman.

Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp employee Jaime Vegas accused Hontiveros and her legislative officer, Jaye Bekema, of sedition, subordination to perjury, offering false witness in evidence, and violating the code of conduct of public officials.

Vegas claimed that Hontiveros and Bekema persuaded his co-worker, Veejay Almira, to testify against Pharmally in exchange for P20,000.

Almira said in a video presented during the Sept. 24 Senate blue ribbon panel hearing that Pharmally instructed its personnel to tamper with the expiration dates of the face shields it provided the government.

Vegas said Almira was tempted to falsely implicate Pharmally as he needed the money from Hontiveros' office to buy medicine for his sick child.

"The objective of Sen. Hontiveros was to bring the government down by portraying that this government is corrupt and to solicit support from the general public to rise against the Duterte administration," he added.

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Hontiveros said the charge to commit sedition was "laughable."

"Holding public officials accountable is not rising publicly and tumultuously against the government," she told reporters.

"I do not need to resort to unlawful means to point out anomalies in Pharmally's transactions. The Senate has already exposed many of these information. This is clearly a last ditch effort by Pharmally and its backers," she added.

Hontiveros presented screenshots of her office's conversations with Almira which showed that the Pharmally employee reached out to them first.

She also showed two affidavits signed by Almira attesting to his testimony against Pharmally and that he never received bribes from Hontiveros' office.

Almira also appeared live in Hontiveros' press conference on Sept. 30 to reiterate that he never received any money in exchange for his testimony.

"Klaro and borne out ng aming resibo, walang-walang bribery on the part of anyone in my office or my whole office with regards Veejay," Hontiveros said.

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Bekema said that while she did give a total of P3,500 to Almira out of her own pocket, it was only for humanitarian reasons and was done after the Pharmally employee gave his testimony.

"Huwag nating ilihis ang usapan mula sa bilyon-bilyong nakupit ng Pharmally sa gitna ng pandemya. Pharmally and its backers are resorting to these old tricks in an attempt to avoid explaining to the public how they used our COVID funds. Face shield nila, expired. Pati script nila, expired," Hontiveros said.


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