DOJ to sign immigration lookout order vs. eight persons involved in Senate probe

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 13) — Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed on Monday he will be signing an immigration lookout bulletin order against eight persons involved in the Senate's probe into the alleged misuse of the government's COVID-19 response funds.

While Guevarra admitted he was "not sure" about their involvement or connection to a top medical supplier supposedly involved in dubious deals, he noted that the request came from the Senate.

"The DOJ will issue an immigration lookout bulletin order (ILBO) against anyone upon receipt of a proper request from a person in interest, more so from a co-equal branch of government," the secretary told reporters.

The announcement came after Senate Blue Ribbon Committee members recommended former presidential adviser Michael Yang's inclusion in the country's immigration watchlist. Yang reportedly has links to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., a local company that allegedly cornered the biggest supply contracts for medical supplies from the government.

The senators adopted the motion after Yang did not show up in the panel's hearing on the Health department's handling of COVID-19 response funds on Monday.

Atty. Raymond Fortun told the panel that Yang's doctor directed his client to remain on bed rest for five days, citing "hypertensive urgency." The lawyer likewise revealed early into the hearing that he was supposed to meet up with the Chinese businessman, but was told he would stay home upon his doctor's orders after his blood pressure supposedly went up.

"The fact that there is still a warrant of arrest and that technically he is now in the custody of our Sergeant-at-Arms, that is sufficient basis for him not to be able to fly out," Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan told fellow lawmakers.

The Senate committee issued late last week an arrest warrant against Yang, citing his "evasiveness" during the probe, which also tackled the government's procurement of COVID-19 supplies during the onset of the pandemic.

Despite the controversies surrounding him, Yang has been consistently defended by President Rodrigo Duterte. The chief executive has also stood by Pharmally amid questions from senators on the multi-billion peso contracts it bagged from government despite its relatively small capital.

CNN Philippines senior correspondent Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.