Lacson to ex-DBM official: Why claim 'high demand' for face shields when only PH requires it?

Senator Panfilo Lacson questioned on Friday, August 27, the claim that the high demand for face shields prompted the government's allegedly overpriced procurement of the protective wear in 2020.

Senator Panfilo Lacson during the Senate Committee of the Whole's inquiry January 15, 2021, on the national government’s COVID-19 vaccination program. (Henzberg Austria/Senate PRIB)

At the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee's inquiry on the reported deficiencies of the Department of Health (DOH) in spending its COVID-19 response funds, Lacson quizzed resigned Department of Budget and Management-Procurement Service (DBM-PS) head Lloyd Christopher Lao for invoking demand in the agency's purchase of face shields at P120 per piece last year.

The DOH transferred some P42 billion to the DBM-PS for the purchase of common use supplies and equipment for the pandemic, which include face masks and shields.

"How could you justify demand when the Philippines is the only country in the world that mandates the use of face shields among its citizens?" Lacson asked.

"How could you attribute to high demand 'yong (the) face shields? Never mind the face masks...nakikita naman talaga natin (since we're seeing that) all countries practically use face masks. But not face shields," he further said.

"Nagtataka nga kami eh, mga Pilipino lang ang gumagamit ng face shield (We're even wondering why Filipinos are the ones only using face shields)," Lacson said.

Lao explained that there were no local producers of face shields at the time of their procurement.

"And there was actually no history that face shields were procured in the Philippines except the ones being procured by the DOH, I think 2019 and backwards until 2015, I think they have a history of buying," he added, justifying the move to import items.

Still, he maintained they had the "cheapest" procurement.

Lao said the government purchased about one million pieces of face shields.

But Lacson was not convinced with the former budget official's responses.

"There's no such thing as high demand because sabi ko nga, tayo lang ang gumagamit ng face shields (like I said, we are the only ones using face shields)," he told Lao.

The Philippine government has insisted on its mandatory face shield policy to supposedly provide additional protection against COVID-19 infection.

In the same hearing, Lao had admitted the "possibility" of negligence in their purchase of face shields and face masks.