There was either a collusion – or an appalling lack of due diligence by former Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (PS-DBM) chief Lloyd Christopher Lao in awarding a multibillion-peso contract involving face masks, face shields, test kits and personal protective equipment (PPEs) to a newly incorporated company.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson raised these possibilities Friday after pinning Lao during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearing on red flags raised by the Commission on Audit on the Department of Health’s transactions.
“Either there was lack of due diligence for reasons of collusion, or they are sloppy. I don’t know what to believe. Being the head of the PS-DBM, a trained and experienced procuring entity of government, yet not even detecting a fake address by the incorporators, I wonder how they were able to award the procurement of billions of pesos of items,” Lacson said.
“You are dealing with billions of pesos worth of public funds… Your explanation will fail even an ordinary layman. We cannot accept that,” he also told Lao.
Also, Lacson said he would support any move to cite Lao in contempt of the committee because he had been evasive. “Being evasive is a ground for citing in contempt… If anyone would move to cite him in contempt of this committee I will support, I will second the motion,” he said.
Lacson questioned Lao’s failure to do a due diligence check on Pharmally Pharma Corp., which Sen. Franklin M. Drilon said got a whopping P8.6-billion contract despite being incorporated only in September 2019 and with a capital of less than P600,000.
A check also showed one of the incorporators gave an address that turned out to be nonexistent, even as the company had no track record.
“You did not follow proper procedure. You threw out of the window all the requirements. Either you did it on your own or someone ordered you to award the contracts… Clearly there’s a collusion. How can you award billions of pesos worth of contracts to nonexistent addressees?” he told Lao.
Also, Lacson rejected Lao’s explanation that the face shields were acquired at high prices because of an “issue of supply and demand.”
“How can you justify high demand when the Philippines is the only country in the world that demands use of face shields?” he said.
On the other hand, Lacson questioned how Lao managed to barge into state-run People’s Television (PTV)’s “Laging Handa” briefing just to explain his side.
“You were not connected with Malacañang or any government agency at the time… yet you were accommodated by ‘Laging Handa’ briefing. How lucky could you get?” he said.