A day after a seven-hour Senate hearing that probed questionable COVID-19 contracts of the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM), Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon and Senator Panfilo Lacson stressed the need to dig deeper into possible “large-scale corruption.”
“Maliwanag namang may tinutumbok tayo rito na large-scale corruption. What makes it worse, sa gitna ng pandemya, may kumikita,” Lacson said in an interview on DWIZ radio on Saturday, August 28.
(It is clear that we are looking at large-scale corruption here. What makes it worse is that people are making money right in the middle of a pandemic.)
In the hot seat of the Senate probe was former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who awarded over P8 billion worth of COVID-19 contracts to Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, a firm that lacked the track record to engage in big-ticket government procurement.
“Malinaw na mayroon po siyang itinatago. Maliwanag na may sagot siyang kasinungalingan. Unang-una, hindi sang-ayon sa ating bureaucracy na ang isang tao ay mag-apply na lamang basta ng undersecretary at i-approve ng Pangulo,” said Drilon.
(It is clear that [Lao] is hiding something. It is clear that there were lies in his answers. First, applying to be an undersecretary and being approved by the President just like that does not align with our bureaucracy.)
The congressional investigations sprung from annual Commission on Audit (COA) reports showing billions’ worth of deficiencies in pandemic funds, particularly under the Department of Health (DOH).
The DOH transferred P41.8 billion to the PS-DBM without a memorandum of agreement.
Going after Pharmally
Drilon said that going after officials of Pharmally, the Philippine government’s biggest supplier of medical goods during the pandemic, was “key” in the investigation.
“Ang Pharmally po ang susi para malaman kung sino ang nasa likod nito…. Patuloy nating tingnan kung totoo ba ito at ano ba ang nangyari,” said Drilon.
(Pharmally is the key for us to find out who is behind this…. We will continue to investigate what happened and if the allegations are true.)
This same corporation has ties to Michael Yang, President Rodrigo Duterte’s former economic advisor.
Lao awarded the P8-billion contract to the firm even if it was only incorporated in September 2019 and had a capital of some P600,000.
“May target silang malaking pera para sa supplies (Those behind the plot were targeting a huge amount of money in procuring supplies),” said Lacson.
Drilon said that the Office of the Ombudsman could still investigate Lao even if the latter had resigned. He also said it was “clear” that Health Secretary Francisco Duque III exercised negligence in transferring the multibillion fund to the PS-DBM.
Drilon added that plunder was not a vague possibility if the overpricing of purchases would be proven to be over P50 million.
Duque said he would resign after the COA findings are resolved. – Rappler.com