Lacson sees 'large-scale corruption' in procurement of COVID-19 supplies

Senator Panfilo Lacson stressed on Saturday, August 28, the need to dig deeper in the role of the Department of Budget and Management's Procurement Service (PS-DBM) in what he believes was "large-scale corruption" involving parties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senator Panfilo Lacson (Czar Dancel/MANILA BULLETIN File Photo)

Lacson said this after the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Senator Richard J. Gordon continued Friday its investigation in the alleged irregularities in the Department of Health's (DOH) utilization of coronavirus response funds.

"Maliwanag naman may tinutumbok tayo rito na large-scale corruption. What makes it worse, sa gitna ng pandemya, may kumikita (It is clear that we are looking at large-scale corruption here. What makes it worse is that this is happening with some unscrupulous parties making gains for themselves right in the middle of a pandemic)," Lacson said in an interview on DWIZ radio.

"At ang perang ito galing sa utang. Di ba magagalit ka (Making matters even worse is that the money involved came from loans. Shouldn't we taxpayers get angry over this)?" he added.

For Lacson, the Senate's investigation "points to a plot to profit greatly from the pandemic", citing how Lloyd Christopher Lao got the top post at the PS-DBM by applying for the job, with the knowledge that it was about to be vacated soon due to qualification issues of its former head.

He reiterated that Lao, a lawyer, failed to conduct due diligence on Pharmally Pharma Corp., which got a P8.6-billion contract despite being incorporated only in September 2019 and with a capital of some P600,000.

"If he did not do due diligence and he is a lawyer, one will presume it is deliberate. Definitely one cannot consider it an oversight," he said.

Lacson also questioned the possible link of Michael Yang, former presidential adviser for economic affairs, with officials of Pharmally.

"We want to focus on this particular issue. Sino ang involved sa napakalaking halaga na na-award sa virtually unknown company na ang director di mahagilap kasi fictitious ang address? Yun pa lang that’s already a crime (Who are involved in the awarding of a contract involving huge sums to a virtually unknown company whose director cannot be located after giving authorities a fictitious address)," he said.

"May target silang malaking pera para sa supplies (Those behind the plot were aiming to hit the jackpot in procuring supplies)," he added.

Lacson said he was still convinced with the officials' explanation for the transfer of P42 billion in DOH COVID-19 response funds to the PS-DBM for the purchase of "common use supplies and equipment" in 2020.

"Who ordered the transfer of the P42 billion to PS-DBM to procure? Is it not the DOH that has the competence to select the suppliers? Why pass that task to the PS-DBM?" he pointed out.

"Hindi natin dapat ito tatantanan (We should continue to pursue this to its logical conclusion)!" Lacson said.