DBM Usec Lao, Bong Go's ex-aide, applies for 2nd highest Ombudsman post

Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, former Palace aide to Senator Bong Go, applied for the position of Overall Deputy Ombudsman, the 2nd highest position which makes crucial calls in the anti-corruption agency Office of the Ombudsman.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which screens aspirants, will interview Lao on October 28. There were 6 other applicants.

The post of ODO has been vacant since June 2019 former ODO Melchor Arthur Carandang left – he was fired by Malacañang over his investigation into the wealth of President Rodrigo Duterte and the first family.

Lao was former undersecretary at the office of Special Assistant to the President, the agency previously headed by Go before being elected senator.

At present, Lao heads the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Services (DBM-PS), which is the frontline office for pandemic purchases. The office is facing accusations of overpricing.

Instead of public agencies making purchases themselves, the DBM-PS has been tasked to handle big-ticket procurements in the Duterte government's coronavirus response.

Senator Risa Hontiveros alleged that the DBM-PS preferred Chinese contractors even though there were qualified local suppliers of personal protective equipment or PPEs. Hontiveros said 11 contracts she studied indicated these may have been overpriced by more than P1 billion.

The DBM-PS disputed Hontiveros' claims and called it baseless. The agency said in a statement it would communicate directly with the Senator to explain.

What does an ODO do?

In many instances, resolutions go through the ODO for approval before these are raised to Ombudsman Samuel Martires for a final check. In some resolutions involving low-ranking officials, the ODO can be the final check.

Carandang was fired by Malacañang for alleged breach of confidentiality when he spoke about what was then an ongoing investigation into the bank accounts of Duterte and his family.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires implemented Malacañang's dismissal despite a Supreme Court ruling prohibiting Malacañang from sanctioning Ombudsman officials.

Before she retired, former ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales terminated the Duterte bank probe because the Anti-Money Laundering Council was not cooperating. Morales said however that the investigation could be opened again.

Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval has been acting ODO since June 2019. The JBC said it has had to reopen application for the position of ODO because previously, only one applicant completed the requirements.

The other aspirants for ODO were Jose Balmeo Jr, currently an Assistant Ombudsman; Jacinto dela Cruz, who used to be with the Office of the Ombudsman; John Agbayani; Rodolfo Noel Quimbo; Warren Rex Liong; and Louella Mae Oco-Pesquera who is at present an Ombudsman prosecutor.

The JBC will hold online interviews on separate days on October 19 and October 28. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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