Pinagsabihan ni Senador Ping Lacson ang National Intelligence Coordinating Agency nitong Martes na pabilisin ang pagpoproseso ng impormasyon hinggil sa agricultural smugglers at mga kasabwat nito sa gobyerno.
Para kay Lacson, hanggang hindi napapangalanan ang mga ito at nasasampahan ng kaso, patuloy lang nila na sasamantalahin ang sistema at magtatago sandali habang mainit sila sa mata ng Senado.
Why was the Department of Agriculture lacking in its help for communities affected by African Swine Fever (ASF) in Mlang town in Cotabato?
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson raised this question Monday after he and Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III learned of the situation firsthand earlier this month.
“Ang nag-abono, local government unit, in the amount of P10.7 million. Magkano ang pondo ng DA sa ASF? Narito rin ang hog raisers, they will benefit to find out from DA anong nangyari sa funding sa ASF (LGUs had to shell out money to assist the affected hog raisers, amounting to P10.7 million How much in funds does the DA have to address ASF? Hog raisers will benefit if they find out what happened),” Lacson said at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on continued smuggling and other issues affecting agricultural products.
Hindi nagsisinungaling ang video. Iyan ang pahayag ni Senador Panfilo Lacson nitong Martes hinggil sa magkakasalungat na testimonya ng empleyado ng Pharmally na si Krizle Mago sa pagdinig sa Senado noong ika-24 ng Setyembre at sa Kamara noong ika-4 ng Oktubre.
Hindi naniniwala si Lacson sa sinabi ni Mago sa Mababang Kapulungan na ang kanyang pag-amin sa pamemeke ng “expired” labels sa face shields ay dahil lamang sa “pressure.”
Sa pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee sa mga iregularidad sa pagbili ng medical supplies para sa COVID-19 response nitong Martes, ipinakita ni Lacson ang isang video clip kung saan malinaw na hindi pinilit si Mago na gawin ang naturang pahayag noong pagdinig sa ika-24 ng Setyembre.
Video clips don’t lie. Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson thus bared Tuesday the conflicting testimonies of Pharmally Pharmaceuticals “employee” Krizle Mago before the Senate last Sept. 24, and the House of Representatives last Oct. 4.
Lacson shot down Mago’s claim before the Lower House that her admission of acting on instructions of higher management to instruct a warehouseman to tamper with “expired” labels on face shields was a “pressured response.”
At Tuesday’s hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the irregularities in the purchase of medical supplies to deal with the Covid pandemic, Lacson had a video clip played showing Mago was not pressured in her admission during the Sept. 24 hearing.
This is the fourth and hopefully the final hearing of our proposed measure on the Military and Uniformed Personnel (MUP) pension reform.
As reiterated by our fiscal managers, we are pressed for time: the passage of the MUP pension reform bill is earnestly and urgently sought so as not to create any fiscal risks that may compromise the state’s ability to fund both the MUP pensions and a credible defense posture.
All of us here would agree that our shared objective is plain and simple: we must have a clear policy direction to guarantee that the pension requirement is sustainable for the next one hundred years. Nonetheless, we must be grounded in reality that our fiscal capacity is limited while at the same time, be very certain that we will not shortchange the welfare and interest of our uniformed retirees.
Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. bagged more than one-fourth of some P42 billion in contracts with the Department of Budget Procurement Service (PS-DBM) for medical supplies to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Panfilo M . Lacson bared Friday.
Lacson cited DBM documents indicating that of 45 suppliers, Pharmally grabbed 26.39 percent of the P42 billion transferred by the Department of Health to the PS-DBM.
“Out of 44 other suppliers, Pharmally ang No. 1, and you bagged 26.39% of the P42 billion transferred by DOH to the PS-DBM even with a P625,000 initial capitalization,” Lacson told Pharmally Director Linconn Ong at the Senate hearing on the matter.
Paano nangyaring ang Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., na may kapital na lagpas lang ng bahagya sa P600,000, ay nakopo ang halos P12 bilyong kontrata sa pamahalaan para sa medical supplies sa pagtugon sa pandemya ng Covid-19?
Ito ang nagtatakang tanong ni Senador Panfilo Lacson sa pagpapatuloy ng pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee sa nabanggit na kontrobersya, na pumutok matapos lumabas ang ulat ng Commission on Audit (COA).
Ayon kay Lacson, ang nabanggit na halaga ay bahagi ng P42 bilyon na na inilipat ng Department of Health (DOH) sa Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (PS-DBM) para ibili ng mga kagamitan sa pagtugon sa Covid-19.
Dahil dito, inatasan ng mambabatas si Pharmally chairman Huang Tzu Yen at director na si Linconn Ong na isumite sa komite ang official records na nagsasaad ng mga kontratang nakuha ng kumpanya pati na rin ang mga kaakibat na halaga.
“Just make sure you base your figures on official records,” paalala ni Lacson, matapos na isiwalat ni Ong na batay sa kanilang “records” ay nakakuha ang Pharmally ng P11 bilyon.
Despite starting up with a little over P600,000, how did Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corp. corner nearly P12 billion in contracts from the government for medical supplies to address the COVID-19 pandemic?
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson asked this Monday as he noted the amount is a huge chunk of the P42 billion that the Department of Health transferred to the Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (PS-DBM) to procure the items.
He told Pharmally chairman Huang Tzu Yen and director Linconn Ong to submit to the committee official records showing how many contracts Pharmally bagged, and how much were involved.
“Just make sure you base your figures on official records,” he said, even as Ong cited “records” showing Pharmally may have gotten some P11 billion.
Maaring may sabwatang naganap o nagpabaya si dating Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (PS-DBM) chief Lloyd Christopher Lao sa pag-award ng kontrata para sa pagbili ng face masks, face shields at personal protective equipment (PPE) sa isang kumpanya na kakatatag pa lamang.
Ito ang nakita ni Senador Panfilo Lacson matapos ang pagtatanong kay Lao sa pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee na tinalakay ang pagpuna ng Commission on Audit (COA) sa mga transaksyon ng Department of Health (DOH).
“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,” banggit ni Lacson sa nabanggit na pagdinig.
“You are dealing with billions of pesos worth of public funds… Your explanation will fail even an ordinary layman. We cannot accept that,” seryosong banggit ng senador kay Lao.
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.
Hinamon ni Senador Panfilo Lacson si Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III na putulin na ang pamamayagpag ng mala-sindikatong gawain sa kagawaran gaya ng nakaugalian nang labis-labis na pag-iimbak ng gamot na kadalasang nasisira lamang.
Ang hamon ni Lacson ay Duque ay kasunod ng pagsiwalat ng mambabatas sa tinatayang P2.736 bilyong halaga ng gamot na nasira na o kaya nalalapit na sa pagkasira sa poder ng DOH, kung saan nasa P2.2 bilyon ay naitala sa 2019 lamang.
“We wasted P2.736 billion in taxpayers’ money. What’s the reason for this? Why are we overstocking? Why are we buying medicines near their expiration dates? What does this tell us? I’ve been an investigator all my life. To me, this indicates that there is probably a ‘mafia’ that is well-entrenched – can’t be uprooted,” banggit ni Lacson sa pagdinig ng Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
“Unless the leadership of the DOH will put his foot down and do something about this, we won’t see the end of this overstocking of medicines,” dagdag ni Lacson.
Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson on Wednesday challenged Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to put his foot down against the “Mafia-like” activities behind the recurring overstocking of medicines and other irregularities hounding the agency.
Lacson issued the challenge during a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing where he cited figures showing overstocked, expired and near-expiry medicines amounting to P2.736 billion – including P2.2 billion in 2019 alone.
“We wasted P2.736 billion in taxpayers’ money. What’s the reason for this? Why are we overstocking? Why are we buying medicines near their expiration dates? What does this tell us? I’ve been an investigator all my life. To me, this indicates that there is probably a ‘mafia’ that is well-entrenched – can’t be uprooted,” he said.
“Unless the leadership of the DOH will put his foot down and do something about this, we won’t see the end of this overstocking of medicines,” he added.
Before the suspension of the said hearing, the Committee had requested the following:
1. For various MUPs to submit to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) the necessary data with respect to the new entrants, so the latter will be able to update its actuarial study dated 05 January 2021; and
2. For the agencies to submit complete data on the real properties to aid the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in computing the total value of assets that may be considered in establishing the seed fund.
This Committee has been informed that, to date, the GSIS is yet to update its actuarial study due to either incomplete or delayed submission of some agencies. We can skip this for now as we were told the aggregate amount involved is not substantial enough to contribute to the reduction of subsidies coming from the GAA. Not to mention that the incomplete submission of data has already delayed the crafting of the committee report.
This is a continuation of our previous public hearing held last October 5, 2020, on the MUP pension bills referred to this committee, which was suspended with the commitment that an actuarial study would be conducted by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) together with our key stakeholders, such as the Bureau of Treasury and the MUPs, among others.
Just to refresh our memory, last year and this year’s appropriations reflect the veracity of this serious financial concern, given the steep increase in the MUPs’ pension funding from P80 billion in 2020 to P120 billion under the 2021 General Appropriations Act.
At the first hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s vaccination efforts, Sen. Lacson detailed how incompetence and lack of urgency slowed down the government’s efforts to procure COVID vaccines.
“As far as we are concerned, a dead NPA rebel or a dead soldier is only as bad and tragic as a dead Filipino. For we see no difference at all except probably the cause that they fought and died for.” – Sen. Ping Lacson, at the start of the third Senate committee hearing on alleged red-tagging.
On the first day of floor deliberations on the P4.5-trillion 2021 budget bill, Sen. Lacson revealed several ‘skeleton projects‘ of the DPWH to illustrate “how acts of corruption are committed than by the misuse and abuse of public funds. Not anymore by the hundreds of thousands but by the millions of pesos wasted during implementation of the national budget.”
Sen. Lacson suggested that the funds for the skeleton projects, including at least P68B for multi-purpose buildings (MPBs) go to items that need funding more in the budget, such as the National Broadband Program. He also questioned the ‘FLR’ (For Later Release)practice of the DBM.
In his interpellation at the hearing tackling the proposed Virology Institute of the Philippines Act, Sen. Lacson gets clarifications from DOST officials on the bill and its progress. He also pushed for the bill’s immediate passage. Sen. Lacson is the author of the Senate version of the bill (SB 1543).
In his interpellation of the proposed 2021 budget of the DPWH, Sen. Lacson noted a “mangling” of the entire appropriations of the agency – totaling P666,474,289,000 – beyond recognition. “Hindi na natin makilala!”
The Chair welcomes everyone present in the joint public hearing of the Joint Committee to discuss several proposed measures that seek to rationalize and establish reforms in order to create a fair, sustainable and clear mechanism for the pensions of MUP and other related matters.
Distinguished colleagues who are present this morning, and guests convened today physically and virtually to find the need to address critical concerns which if not managed immediately would mean dire consequences in the financial welfare of our country. I speak of the ballooning pension requirements of our MUP which we fear may no longer be sustained by our scarce government resources in the coming years.
Certainly, it is high time we created a standalone special fund so that we may deter the inevitable fiscal disaster of draining the public coffers attributed to the bloating pension requirements of our uniformed retirees which up to this very moment completely rely on the national budget.
Sen. Lacson chaired the hearing for the 2021 budgets of the Southern Philippines Development Authority, Mindanao Development Authority, and the Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process.
At the start of the hearing, Sen. Lacson noted all three agencies were recipients of congressional initiatives initiated by his subcommittee and eventually included in the 2020 GAA. “Unfortunately as we all know, medyo tinamaan tayo ng COVID, so ang iba nabawasan, ang iba di na-release at all.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Lacson stressed the importance of ensuring regular funding for the OPAPP’s normalization program, as part of government’s long-term commitment to the peace process. The OPAPP aims to decommission 40,000 combatants by 2022, according to OPAPP Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. “Since this is a program, dapat recurring budget ito under OPAPP because this is a long-term commitment…We cannot renege on this commitment. Otherwise sayang lang lahat na effort sa peace process natin especially with the passage of the BARMM organic act. Medyo kailangan pangatawanan natin ito,” Sen. Lacson said.
At the hearing on the 2021 budgets of the Commission on Audit and Office of the Ombudsman, Sen. Lacson stressed the DBM has no authority under the Constitution to issue a discontinuance against a constitutional body such as the COA – after noting that the DBM issued a budget circular providing for the discontinuance of Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) of COA amounting to a total of P173M under the 2020 budget as they were categorized as congressional initiative and as “For Later Release.”
“My point is, Mr. Chairman, under the Constitution – particularly Sec. 5, Art 9-A, it provides for the automatic and regular release of the annual appropriations of constitutional commissions. And COA very clearly is one of three constitutional commissions, Comelec and CSC being the others. Of course even the judiciary,” Sen. Lacson said as he also cited jurisprudence (Bengzon vs Drilon, GR 103524), where fiscal autonomy allows the constitutional bodies and the judiciary full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. “So pag sinabi nating fiscal autonomy, walang pakialam ang DBM.”
COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said that while they are okay with the DBM’s decision “considering the difficulties the govt was having with funding in view of the pandemic,” he would agree that “it’s a violation of fiscal autonomy under the Constitution.”
“I’d like to manifest this very clearly, let this not serve as a precedent for future issuances by DBM; huwag lang gawing precedent setting ito. If I may add, emergency or no emergency, hindi pwedeng precedent ito,” Sen. Lacson said.
At the hearing on the proposed 2021 budget, Sen. Lacson stressed the need for greater government support for research and development, especially in the fight against COVID-19. He also raised questions on:
* Information that PhilHealth is not getting full allocations from the sin tax
* Why P30B in COVID-19 response funds remain undisbursed
* NEDA’s ‘Resiliency’ planning
At the hearing on the proposed 2021 budget, Sen. Lacson raised questions on the following issues:
* Ability of DPWH, DoTr to accomplish infrastructure programs to rebound from pandemic
* P396B in lump sums in the DPWH’s budget – lodged in the central office
* Re-appropriations involving 2,933 items worth P73.5B in the proposed budget
* P30B not yet allocated for COVID-19 response
Mr. Chairman, this representation as one of the Vice-Chairpersons of the Committee on National Defense, presided over a public hearing to deliberate on the ad interim appointments of 14 Senior Officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the nomination of one officer to the rank of Lieutenant General.
Your Committee, after deliberating on their qualifications and fitness during the said public hearing, has determined that all of the 14 appointees and one nominee are fit and qualified to the ranks which they are respectively nominated or appointed, and has therefore ruled to recommend to the plenary their respective nomination and appointments for the consent and confirmation of this august body.
Sen. Lacson’s Opening Statement at the Senate Committee of the Whole Hearing on Corruption at PhilHealth:
Sa nakaraang dalawangaraw na pagdinig ng komite ng buong Senado na ating isinagawa sa kasalukuyan, buong singkad na maghapon nang parehong araw ng Martes, pinaligiran po tayo ng mga sinungaling at mga manloloko. Sabi nga ng nanay ng kasama nating Senator Grace Poe – “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw!”
Let me prove what I just said, Mr. President and distinguished colleagues.
Only last week, I asked Fund Management Sector Senior Vice President Renato Limsiaco, Jr., why despite PhilHealth being a withholding tax agent of the BIR, he failed to deduct and withhold from the funds advanced to the private hospitals and other health care institutions the taxes due them under the National Internal Revenue Code.
At the Aug. 11, 2020 hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole regarding corruption at PhilHealth, Sen. Lacson bared more irregularities involving issues such as the Interim Reimbursement Mechanism and procurement of IT equipment. He also called for a “special special audit” of PhilHealth – and called out a PhilHealth executive for alluding to investigators as “kampon ni Satanas.”
And for good reason. PhilHealth is a murky, stinking swamp that many of its good and well-meaning people from the officials to their rank-and-file employees want drained, not just of some corrupt but well-entrenched officials who do not seem to run out of malevolent schemes to enrich themselves, but of a deeply rooted, mafia-like syndicate that controls the resources of the corporation, and habitually manipulate its financial records, that even the COA seems helpless in the conduct of their regular audit.
If we look closely enough, the story only revolves around the same cast of characters – a circle of high-ranking officials who manage to hog their seats despite the change of leadership and detailed anomalies that we already unearthed in the past.
At the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the government’s response against COVID-19, Sen. Lacson relayed to the appropriate officials some questions from the public on the tests by PhilHealth and Philippine Red Cross. “We’re not finding fault here… Nang lumabas na 45% ng tests ang na-conduct ng Red Cross, maraming natuwa (kasi ang) impression na dumating sa kanila, libre. Mabuti at maliwanagan ang kababayan natin na may protocols na dapat sundin.”
For his part, PhilHealth president Ricardo Morales said they will publish guidelines to clarify the issue on who can qualify for free COVID-19 testing under PhilHealth, “so the public will be informed.”
At the Senate hearing on the GCTA and related issues, Sen. Lacson stressed the need to resolve the problem involving the capacity of convicts to commit crimes, and put forward the “perfect alibi” of physical impossibility.
At the Senate hearing on the 2019-nCoV situation, Sen. Lacson emphasized the principle of unity of command in addressing the problem, with the Department of Health taking charge because “this is a health issue.”
At the Senate hearing on proposed legislation creating the Philippine Judicial Marshal Service, Sen. Lacson stressed the urgency to secure members of the judiciary who face threats in the course of their work.
During the hearing, Sen. Lacson cited the case of Panabo Judge Dax Gonzaga Xenos, who has been receiving “consistent death threats.” The Office of the Court Administrator said it would look into the case. In the meantime, Lacson asked the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to provide security for the judge.
In his interpellation of the 2020 budget of the Department of Interior and Local Government (including the Philippine National Police), Sen. Lacson sought more resources for the PNP and greater capacity and for local government units. He promised to do his part to help.
‘Tulong Dunong,’ the defunct scholarship program of individual legislators, is still alive and kicking – and the proof is on Facebook. Sen. Lacson bared this during his interpellation of the 2020 budget of the Commission on Higher Education.
Sen. Lacson sponsored the 2020 budget of the Commission on Human Rights amounting to P863.138 million. This included P830 million for the Human Rights proper and P32.8 million for the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.
Lacson noted the CHR needs at least 152 lawyers nationwide as it has only three lawyers per region. He also corrected impressions the CHR was silent on the abuse of the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
Meanwhile, Lacson sponsored as well the 2020 budgets of the Mindanao Development Authority, Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, and Southern Philippines Development Authority.
As he sponsored the proposed PhP7.72-billion budget of the Department of Information and Communications Technology, Sen. Lacson pushed for additional funding for the agency in 2020, saying its initial budget was smaller than the pork barrel of a legislator.
Sen. Lacson sponsored the proposed PhP553.661-million budget of the Dangerous Drugs Board. The proposed 2020 budget of the DDB is lower than the 2019 budget due to, among other factors, the non-recurring funding for the nationwide survey on the extent of drug abuse in the Philippines.
Lacson also sponsored the PhP2.480-billion budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, higher than the current year’s budget.
Sen. Lacson sponsored the proposed PhP191,340,253,000 budget of the Department of National Defense for 2020. The amount is about 4% of the 2020 budget. The key security strategy for 2018 indicated a minimum of 2% of the budget for the DND.
The World Economic Forum conducted in Geneva, Switzerland in 2017 identified both natural and man-made disasters as among the top global risks that can cause significant negative impact for several countries and industries within the next 10 years. But long before this risk has been widely talked about in international fora, disasters have unfortunately become a frequent life experience in the Philippines, and our recent history attests to this untoward reality.
Just last Friday, Nov. 8, we commemorated the sixth anniversary when category-five Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) cut a swath of unprecedented destruction across 171 cities and municipalities in Central Philippines. In the same breath, we are one with our brothers and sisters in Mindanao as they continue to heal from the scars caused by the Zamboanga siege in 2013 and the Marawi crisis in 2017. In between, various parts of the country are being shaken, quite literally, by earthquakes and numerous aftershocks; most recent of which were the three strong quakes that hit the island of Mindanao in the past weeks, affecting 146,000 Filipinos, most of whom are still living in tents as we speak.