Lao still on the run, eludes Senate security officers out to arrest him

Lloyd Christopher Lao, resigned Procurement Service, Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) chief, is still on the run.

This as security officers of the Senate Office of Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) failed to locate him since November 5, the day his arrest warrant was signed by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III.

The Senate Blue Ribbon committee cited him in contempt for skipping committee hearings presided by Senator Richard J. Gordon.

Lao’s PS-DBM gave away P42 billion worth of ‘’overpriced’’ pandemic-related medical supplies to 45 suppliers in what Senate Minority Leader Franklin M, Drilon dubbed as ‘’premeditated plunder.’’

Drilon was referring to the purchases by PS-DBM of more than P10 billion pandemic-related medical supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical corporation, a firm with a paid up capital of only P625,000.

Armed with an arrest warrant signed by Sotto, a team of OSAA officers led by Raul Herrera attempted last Tuesday to serve the warrant on Lao in his Quezon City residence.

They found two mail boxes at a condominium. Unit 324 was apparently unoccupied while Unit 326 was occupied by a certain employee of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB).

Lao was at one time head of HLURB.

Retired General Rene Samonte, OSAA chief, said several teams would be deployed to Lao’s known addresses in the cities of Davao and Cebu to serve his warrant.

He said OSAA officers are expecting to apprehend Lao over the weekend or Friday at the earliest.

Also on the lam are the Dargani siblings - Mohit and Twinkle - while Linconn Ong, Pharmally director, has been under OSAA detention for his refusal to hand over corporate documents of Pharmally.

Lao’s arrest was sought by Gordon at the conclusion of its 14th public hearing last week on alleged overpricing of COVID-19 medical supplies last year and this year.

Gordon cited Lao in contempt for his refusal to attend his committee’s hearings on October 5, 19, 28 and on November 4.

He said Lao’s refusal to attend delayed, impeded and obstructed the inquiry into the Commission on Audit (COA) report and other issues related to the disbursement by PS-DBM of the P42 billion COVID-19 response funds of the Department of Health (DOH).

Senators wanted answers on who ordered the DOH to transmit the P42 billion to PS-DBM to buy the COVID 19-related medical supplies at an overprice. The transfer of funds was not covered by a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA).

Lao was cited in contempt on motion of opposition Senator Francis ‘’Kiko’’ N. Pangilinan and seconded by Senator Risa Hontiveros.

Sotto said Lao would be detained at OSAA ‘’until such time that he submits the subpoenaed documents ‘’or otherwise purges himself of that contempt.’’

Senator Panfilo ‘’Ping’’ M. Lacson, a presidential aspirant, had said Lao is not covered by President Duterte’s order to government officials in the executive branch not to appear in the Senate probe.

"We are now issuing that order to facilitate. He is still needed here because he's got a lot of explaining as well," Gordon said.

The committee earlier asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to check the income tax returns of the companies that delivered medical supplies to PS-DBM.