Senate mulls hold departure order for parties allegedly behind PPE overpricing

Published September 1, 2021, 10:06 AM

by Mario Casayuran

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee is mulling the issuance of hold departure orders for parties allegedly involved in its probe on the multi-billion-peso purchase of medical supplies by the Procurement Service of the Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

Senator Richard J. Gordon, committee chairman, said Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said he is agreeable to his proposal by saying ‘’OK…good.’’

During a media interview this morning (September 1), Gordon said he was told by a lawyer that controversial PS-DBM chief, Christopher Lloyd Lao, might leave the country since he has already a visa for another country.

Senators had complained that Lao, also a former DBM Undersecretary, was evasive during the last week’s seven-hour Blue Ribbon committee hearing as Lao refused to say who was his instrumental in his numerous appointments.

They had sensed that the awarding of P42 billion worth of COVID 19-related medical supplies by PS-DBM was cloaked with mystery as officers of the winning corporations could not longer be located or that they were undercapitalized or were engaged in non-medical businesses.

The senators also wanted to know why the Department of Health (DOH) consented to transmit its P42 billion COVID 19 response funds to PS-DBM since it has a corps of expert personnel who could undertake the bidding for medical supplies.

Gordon said President Duterte would be creating a crisis if he orders members of his Cabinet and the military not to attend Senate hearings if they are browbeaten or insulted and even cited for contempt.

If they are jailed for contempt, Duterte said he would find means of extricating them from Senate custody.

‘ Gordon said it would be nice if the President does not go into personalities and let the Senate exercises its constitutional powers to investigate in aid of legislation.

Following the President’s rants against some senators, Gordon said the President is powerful but he is not shaking.

Gordon said all the committee wants to know is where did the billions of pesos go and how was it spent.

He cited the failure of DOH to give allowances to healthcare workers who are at risk at hospitals tending to COVID-19 patient.