Drilon: Senate should zero in on identifying Lao’s 'influential backer'

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday said the Senate blue ribbon committee will dig deep on the issue of who was former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lao’s influential backer who enabled him to get into the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and later on, enter into questionable contracts.

Drilon said senators find it impossible for Lao to decide alone on the procurement of P8.7-billion worth of personal protective equipment (PPEs) from Pharmally Corporation, a relatively unknown company, without getting an imprimatur from a higher official.

“Ang lalakas ng loob (They have guts). Pharmally only has a paid-up capital of P625,000 pero ang nakuha niyang kontrata ay (yet they got a contract worth) P8.7-billion. Paano nangyari iyon? Ang tanong, sino ang backer ni Lao? Sino ang backer ng Pharmally (How did that happen? The question is, who is Lao’s backer? Who is Pharmally’s backer)?” Drilon said in an interview over Radio DZBB.

“Sa akin, si Lao talagang nagsisinungaling. Sa aming tingin sa Senado, may pinagtatakpan siya. Sino kaya (to me, Lao is lying. Our belief in the Senate is that he is protecting someone),” he pointed out.

“Kami ipipilit namin na ilabas ni Lao kung sino ang kaniyang backer. Mahahalata mo naman kasi unang-una, sinasabi niya na walang nagrekomenda sa kanya sa DBM doon pa lang halata ng may pinagtatakpan siya (we will insist that Lao reveal his backer. You can see that from the start, he was saying no one recommended him to the DBM, it only shows he is shielding someone),” he explained.

Drilon also said he does not believe former budget secretary Wendel Avisado had no knowledge of Lao’s transactions.

“Alam mo, human nature, bilyung-blilyon ang hawak ng isang ahensya sa ilalim mo bilang secretary of budget, hindi mo ba tatanungin kung ano ang nangyayari diyan (Your agency is holding billions of funds and as budget secretary, wouldn’t you be asking what happened to the funds),” he further pointed out.

“Huwag mo naming sabihin Sec. Avisado na hindi mo alam ang ginagawa (Sec. Avisado please don’t tell us you don’t know what he is doing). That is contrary to human experience,” Drilon insisted.

“Hindi ako naninwala. Kahit attached agency lang iyan, subordinate mo iyan. In practical terms, sa araw-araw mong trabaho ay dapat tinatawagan mo yain. May pagkukulang (I don’t believe you don’t know. Even if that is only just an attached agency, he’s your subordinate. In practical terms, you should be talking to him because you work with him every day. There is negligence),” he reiterated.

Asked if he can apply as a state witness so he can speak out truthfully, Drilon said he must first be the least guilty.

If he refuses to speak of what he knows about the anomaly, the senator said Lao would be the only one to be criminally charged.

“Kung hindi siya magsasalita, kawawa naman siya, siya lang ang makukulong (if he refuses to speak, he’ll be the only one to go to jail),” he said.