DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 Sept) — Businessman Michael Yang, President Rodrigo Duterte’s friend and former economic adviser, was a no-show at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Monday, September 13, as his doctor advised him bed rest for five days due to “hypertensive urgency,” Yang’s lawyer Raymond Fortun told the committee.
Fortun said the medical certificate was issued by Dr. Jenny A. Adtoon, whom he described as “a doctor here in Davao City.”
Issued on Monday, the medical certificate states that the 45-year old Yang, with address at Ramon Magsaysay Avenue was seen and diagnosed for “hypertensive urgency” by Adtoon, a general practitioner who passed the physician licensure exam two years ago. Adtoon advised Yang to rest for “5 days for observation and BP monitoring.”
Adtoon’s clinic, according to the address indicated in the medical certificate, is in the OJLC Building along Datu Abeng St. in Calinan district which is 30 kilometers away from Magsaysay Avenue, Yang’s stated address and address of his DCLA Plaza. The clinic is also 37 kilometers away from Insular Village 1 where Yang and Fortun were supposed to meet before 9:30 a.m., on Monday. The Senate hearing was scheduled at 9:30 a.m. that day.
It is not clear where Yang was examined by Adtoon – in her Calinan clinic or in Magsaysay Avenue – or if Yang has been a long-time patient. Adtoon has not replied to MindaNews’ queries. Her secretary told MindaNews late Tuesday afternoon that she would forward the queries to the doctor. Shortly before noon on Wednesday, the secretary said she was still waiting for the doctor’s replies. No reply had been sent as of 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
When Yang testified on Friday, September 10, he was at the Dusit Thani Residence Davao in Davao City although it was not indicated if he was in the hotel or in the residential condominium within the hotel compound.
Fortun told the committee on Monday that he and his client were “supposed to be meeting here at a place in Insular Village 1 before 9:30 a.m.” The village is a high-end subdivision adjacent to the Waterfront Insular Hotel along Lanang, less than a kilometer away from Dusit.
Fortun did not say where his client was coming from but on the way to Insular Village 1, Yang “texted me and then subsequently called and said that his blood pressure had suddenly shot up and for that reason he was advised by his doctor to just stay at home. Apparently because of the proceedings, his health has been affected.”
The committee did not ask Fortun where Yang’s “home” is and if Yang texted and called him through an interpreter. Yang, who has been in the country since 1999, had an interpreter beside him when he appeared before the committee last Friday, translating to him in Chinese the questions the senators asked of him and translating to English Yang’s answers to the committee.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) in the United States, hypertensive urgency is “a marked elevation in blood pressure without evidence of target organ damage, such as pulmonary edema, cardiac ischemia, neurologic deficits, or acute renal failure.”
According to the WebMD, hypertensive urgency “occurs when blood pressure spikes” with readings “180/110 or higher … but there is no damage to the body’s organs.” Blood pressure “can be brought down safely within a few hours with blood medication.”
It said hypertensive urgency is different from hypertensive emergency which is a situation where the blood pressure is “so high that organ damage can occur” and “blood pressure must be reduced immediately to prevent imminent organ damage.”
“He cannot be sick forever”
Senator Richard Gordon, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chair told Fortun that Yang “looks healthy enough” and reminded him his client is still under contempt and under arrest for contempt for failing to appear earlier despite two subpoenas.
“Blood pressures go up and down,” Gordon said, vowing not to give Yang a “free pass.” He noted that Yang is in Davao City and “he feels comfortable there.”
“He cannot be sick forever,” Gordon said.
The Senate probe continues on Friday, September 17, at 10:30 a.m.
After explaining the absence of his client, Fortun told the Senate committee that “his (Yang’s) physician is named Dr. Jenny A. Adtoon a doctor here in Davao City. I can send you his medical certificate right now duly signed by the doctor.”
Adtoon was featured in the city government’s website on October 9, 2019 for passing the physician licensure exam a month earlier. She was described in the article as a Subanen who was among the first recipients of the medical scholarship grant offered by the Davao City government under the Educational Benefits System Unit.
Cast of characters
Senator Risa Hontiveros had wanted to continue questioning Yang during Monday’s hearing. She said Yang is “nasa gitna sa cast of characters” (in the center of the cast of characters” and everyone is hoping “he can help us connect the dots.”
“He seems to be a very important dot right in the middle of these issues,” she said.
She also asked if a hold departure order had been issued against Yang.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon proposed to the committee to request the Bureau of Immigration through the Department of Justice to put Yang on the immigration watchlist so that “if the witness will try to leave (the country) we will be notified immediately.”
Yang had said during the September 10 hearing that his only link with Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation was having introduced its officials to four Chinese suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) but had nothing to do with their business transactions with government.
But Singapore-based Huang Tzu Yen, Pharmally’s Chief Executive Officer, and the firm’s Philippine-based director Lincoln Ong revealed in their testimonies that Yang did more than just introduce them to suppliers, that he guaranteed for them and even lent them money.
Gordon said during the hearing that Yang appeared to have been involved “practically in most big-ticket items” amounting to at least 5 billion pesos out of at least 8.7 billion pesos worth of pandemic-related contracts awarded to Pharmally last year by the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) under then Budget Undersecretary and PS-DBM chief Lloyd Christopher Lao of Davao City.
The Senate has been investigating why a firm set up in 2019 with a capital of only 625,000 pesos was awarded multi-billion peso contracts by the PS-DBM. The Senate probe is based on a Commission on Audit (COA) report made public on August 11 flagging “deficiencies” in the Department of Health’s management of pandemic funds amounting to 67.3 billion pesos.
The COA also pointed to the 42.4 billion peso fund for procurement of COVID-19 supplies which was transferred to other agencies without a memorandum of agreement. In its press release on August 16, the DOH said the 42.4 billion peso fund was transferred mostly to the PS-DBM and Philippine International Trading Corp (PITC) and that there was no need for a MOA “since the items procured — PPEs, testing kits, and other equipment needed for the COVID-19 response have been classified as common-use supplies due to the pandemic.”
In defense of Yang
President Duterte has been defending Yang in the past two weeks.
In his pre-taped ‘Talk to the People’ aired on August 31, Duterte dismissed reports about Yang’s alleged involvement in illegal drugs. He said he had no doubts about Yang. “Bakit ako magduda? Bakit ako magsabi na drug lord sya” (Why should I doubt? Why should I say he is a drug lord?), he said, adding the former Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines always slept in Yang’s house in Davao.
Yang’s name was mentioned in a 2019 report by former Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, then OIC of the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group, claiming that Yang and a certain Allan Lim were behind a huge shabu laboratory discovered in Davao City in 2004. This was denied by Palace officials in 2019. Last month, Wilkins Villanueva, Director-General of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said Yang was not implicated in the 2004 operation.
Duterte was mayor of Davao City in 2004.
In a speech before the national convention of the PDP-Laban Cusi faction on September 8 in San Fernando, Pampanga, Duterte said Yang is “middleman lang ‘yan. A Chinese doing business because we were encouraging everybody in the world to come to the Philippines and do business.”
“Yang is known to me, I admit it. And it was Yang whom I requested to do to lay — to do the — lay the ground or do the legwork of my going to China and getting into a new deal and a new relations…” Duterte said.
In his “Talk to the People” aired on September 11, Duterte said he has known Yang “for the last 20 years na negosyante ng Davao” whom he ordered to establish contacts with the Chinese (in mainland Chian). “Eh siyempre may negosyo, nakikisali, eh negosyante eh. Ano ba magawa mo?” (of course there’s business, so he took part in it, he’s a businessmen. What can you do?), he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)