Lao, Duque culpable for ‘planned plunder’ in govt’s overpriced PPE purchase - Drilon

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Thursday, Sept. 2 said sees Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former budget undersecretary Christopher Lao as the officials who are primarily culpable for the “planned plunder’ in the government’s procurement of overpriced personal protective equipment (PPE) last year.

Drilon said it all started with Duque’s approval of the transfer of P47.5-billion funds from the Department of Health (DOH) to the Department of Budget and Management’s procurement service (DBM-PS), which was then headed by Lao.

“It was Secretary Duque who authorized the transfer (of the funds) to DBM without a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that allowed Lao to do the shenanigans he appears to have done,” Drilon said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.

“I will suspect that all of this is planned scheme from the very start to commit this grand corruption,” the minority leader added.

Had Duque not facilitated the transfer of the funds, Drilon said “this could not have happened.”

“I can see the culpability of Secretary Duque and Undersecretary Lao,” he said.

Drilon pointed out Lao, himself, admitted to the Senate blue ribbon committee that he did not conduct due diligence in the awarding of the P8.68-billion worth of contract to Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp.

"All I will say is that Pharmally was favored. It doesn’t require much intelligence to realize if you only have a P625,000 paid up capital, common sense (dictates) but more importantly, due diligence would have told you should not award supply agreements worth P8.7 billion in a span of two months to this company,” he pointed out.

"The blue ribbon (panel) has discovered there is a new variant called ‘planned plunder’. It is a virus that’s spread all over the bureaucracy. You hear about the pastillas, commissioners who extorted P50-million, corruption in the Customs. It mutates, you see it in the bureaucracy as you examine,” the lawmaker added.

Drilon also said that despite Malacanang’s attempt to retaliate by bringing up allegations of overpriced purchases during the Aquino administration, the Senate is resolute to “get to the bottom” of the controversy.

“That was five years ago. We’re now in 2021. There is no COA (Commission on Audit) report of questionable transaction (to that). So please, we will not be distracted and we’ll get to the bottom of this,” he stressed.