Drilon seeks Ombudsman probe on ex-DBM exec over P8.6-B deals with pharma firm

Published August 28, 2021, 10:49 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has sought an investigation by the Ombudsman of controversial former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao for the P8.6-billion worth of COVID-19-related contracts he awarded to a pharmaecuetical firm.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in a hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on March 5, 2020. (Senate of the Philippines/Joseph Vidal)

Drilon, during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing on Friday, August 27, said he wanted the Ombudsman to investigate Lao for graft for failing to exercise due diligence in determining the persons and corporations that offered and won bills for personal protective equipment (PPE), face shields, face masks and other COVID-19 supplies.

The Department of Heath (DOH) had transferred its P42 billion coronavirus response funds to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Procurement Service (DBM-PS) for the purchase of medical supplies.

Lao, a political appointee, headed the DBM-PS before resigning last June.

Senators observed that the purchases by DBM-PS were overpriced. They also discovered that several officers of companies that won bids are no longer staying in their declared residences.

Lao testified that his office used the services of Philippine diplomats in contacting firms interested in offering bids for the medical supplies.

‘’You are implicating ambassadors,’’ Lacson, chairman of the Senate National Defense and Security committee, told Lao.

Lao said he only relied on the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) articles of incorporation of companies that offered the supply materials.

Senator Imee Marcos said she is curious because the companies that won the bids had no documentation and the persons and companies were not existent.

Because of his ‘’evasiness,’’ Lacson expressed exasperation by saying his desire to ask Lao more questions has waned.

Senator Richard J. Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon hearing, held off any decision to formally ask the Ombudsman to investigate Lao who he said is very evasive in answering his and other senators’ pointed questions such who recommended him to the DBM purchasing service (DBM-PS) office.

He said his committee hearing resumes on September 7 with Drilon awaiting the committee report on what will happen to the subpoenas served on persons the Gordon committee had wanted to appear.

Gordon later said he agrees with Drilon, Lacson and Marcos that Lao gave glaring inconsistencies in his testimony and has been evasive.

Like baseball, Gordon said that Lao he could immediately be declared ‘’out’’ at first base.