Corruption is weighing down the government’s already insufficient response to the heightened threat from COVID-19 due to the Delta variant of the coronavirus, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson lamented Thursday.
Lacson described as “disheartening, frustrating and revolting” the signs of corruption that have emerged so far in the Senate’s investigation into irregularities in the procurement of medical supplies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
These irregularities range from the failed attempt of former Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service head Christopher Lao to reclassify some employees as “confidential” to the Food and Drug Administration’s changing the rules on procurement, Lacson said in an interview on ANC.
“While the Delta variant is to be blamed, ang ma-blame mo rin government response. We’re not responding accordingly sa prevailing situation. To make matters worse, may corruption involved. Naroon ang problema (While the Delta variant is to be blamed for our situation now, government response is not free from blame because we’re not responding accordingly to the prevailing situation. To make matters worse, there is corruption involved. There lies the problem),” he said.
Lacson questioned former PS-DBM head Christopher Lao’s move to request a reclassification of some employees as confidential employees. He said this occurred in early February, shortly after he was appointed as OIC of the PS-DBM. The Civil Service Commission denied the request.
“Ang question, bakit kailangan ang confidential employees sa isang ahensya ng government na nag-procure (The question is, why the need for confidential employees in an agency tasked with procurement)?” he said.
Lacson also questioned the FDA’s circular loosening requirements for procurement, but tightening them again after Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. delivered its supplies.
He said he has suggested to Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Richard Gordon to summon some documents including the minutes of the Bids and Awards Committee of the PS-DBM, and other documents necessary to qualify to participate in a bidding.
On the other hand, Lacson said at least one person has manifested intention to fully cooperate in the investigation.
“I hope pagka nag-testify ang sinasabi ko, mag-open up lahat. Maraming mabubuksan dito. I hope chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee and my colleagues will still continue this investigation (I hope this person will testify to crack open the case. I hope the Blue Ribbon Committee chairman and my colleagues will continue this investigation). That’s all I can say now. We’re waiting for developments and I hope this can open up a whole lot of information,” he said.
Lacson said other “mind-boggling” signs of corruption include the Department of Health’s procurement of ambulances that are overpriced by P1 million each.