Senate of the Philippines

WATCH: ‘What’s so funny?’ says Pangilinan as Lao smirks at senators’ questions

Sofia Tomacruz
WATCH: ‘What’s so funny?’ says Pangilinan as Lao smirks at senators’ questions

SENATE PROBE. Senator Francis Pangilinan questions former PS-DBM chief Llyod Christopher Lao on September 30, 2021.

Screenshot from Senate of the Philippines

Senators warn former PS-DBM chief Llyod Christopher Lao against disrespecting lawmakers

The embattled former chief of the Procurement Services of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), Lloyd Christopher Lao, was scolded at a Senate hearing on Thursday, September 30, for disrespecting lawmakers as he insisted his awards of pandemic contracts to a questionable firm did not violate any laws. 

Senator Risa Hontiveros had been questioning Lao on his decision making process in awarding deals to supply the government with pandemic items when the issue ventured into the sale of face masks to the PS-DBM at standard retail prices, which Hontiveros pointed out was the wrong basis for establishing prices for the government. 

Hontiveros cited findings from previous hearing where wholesale prices should have served as proper basis for costing of government’s purchases from suppliers. 

At this point, Senator Francis Pangilinan chimed in to expound on the point, saying, “No less than Secretary Duque has already manifested when we asked him about the basis for purchasing these masks that the SRP is purely retail, not wholesale. They were buying millions, that’s not retail no matter how you look at it.”

Lao was then seen smiling on video, using his hand to cover his mouth as he giggled. 

Pangilinan raised, “Mr Lao, are you smirking?” 

“I’m smiling, Mr Chairman,” Lao answered. 

“What’s funny? Why is it funny?” Pangilinan said, growing frustrated. 

To this, Lao replied, “I find it humorous, Mr Chairman.” 

Pangilinan then scolded Lao for his response, citing findings from previous hearings which showed that taxpayer’s funds were wasted when the PS-DBM bought test kits with a short life, leading it to expire and some P550 millions to be wasted

“It is not humorous when you overprice Mr Chairman. It is not humorous when people are dying because of substandard materials,” he said. 

“How do you explain, Mr Lao? Half a billion worth of testing kits expired under your watch. This is not funny, Mr Lao. This is not funny,” he added.

Later in the hearing, Senate blue ribbon committee chair Richard Gordon warned Lao against disrespecting senators and raising his voice against Hontiveros. 

Back to back hearings in Congress have zeroed in on Pharmally, a small company owned by a Singaporean wanted in Taiwan. Lawmakers questioned how the firm, which lacked the capability and credibility to engage in big ticket government procurement, obtained the most government pandemic contracts. 

Lao was at the helm of the PS-DBM when it awarded Pharmally most of its contracts. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.