Gordon summons ex-DBM executive for Blue Ribbon probe

Aileen Cerrudo   •   August 23, 2021   •   290

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Richard Gordon has summoned former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Undersecretary Lloyd Cristopher Lao to the next hearing of the Committee on Wednesday (August 25).

Gordon, who is also the Chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee, signed a Subpoena Ad Testificandum requiring the attendance of Lao in the next hearing probing the  2020 Commission on Audit (COA) report on the Department of Health (DOH) expenses. A subpoena ad testificandum compels the person so summoned to appear before it to answer questions regarding the matter being heard and discussed.

Lao was the head of the Procurement Service of the DBM at the time when bulk purchases of masks and face shields were undertaken by the government due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The probe was based on COA’s report on the P67 billion DOH COVID-19 response funds.

“He will be asked to explain the circumstances of such procurement. It is important that he appears because there are so many questions that need answers especially, he was previously investigated over procurement of overpriced medical supplies and equipment as Usec. Canda said,” Gordon stated.

In a press briefing, Lao said he is willing to attend the hearing next week “to shed light on the matter”. AAC

Ong, Dargani undergo medical check up prior to Pasay Jail transfer

Maris Federez   •   November 29, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation executives Linconn Ong and Mohit Dargani went through a medical check-up before their transfer to the Pasay City Jail Monday (November 29).

A statement released by the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB) to reporters said the two Pharmally executives underwent the medical check-up, including an antigen test for COVID-19, inside the Senate premises.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee ordered Dargani and Ong’s transfer to the Pasay City Jail for their failure to provide the documents needed by the panel.

The documents will be used in the Blue Ribbon’s probe on the alleged anomalies in the purchase of personal protective equipment and other medical supplies related to the fight against COVID-19.

“In the commitment order signed Saturday, November 27, by Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Richard Gordon, Blue Ribbon Committee chairman, Ong and Dargani would remain in jail ‘until such time that they will properly answer questions propounded to them, submit documents required by the committee or otherwise purge themselves of a contempt order imposed against them’,” the Senate said. —/mbmf

Senate issues arrest order vs. Lao

Maris Federez   •   November 5, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon) on Friday (November 5) issued an arrest order against former Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) head Lloyd Christopher Lao after he was cited in contempt on Thursday during the 14th Blue Ribbon committee hearing.

Lao was cited in contempt after his refusal to attend the Committee hearings of October 5, 19, 28, and November 4.

The Committee said Lao’s failure to attend the hearings on the said dates has delayed, impeded, and obstructed the inquiry into the alleged anomaly in the procurement of supplies in the government’s fight against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan made the motion to have Lao cited in contempt and, subsequently, arrested, and detained at the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms “until such time that he submits the subpoenaed documents, or otherwise purges himself of that contempt.”

The Sergeant-at-Arms was directed to carry out the order within 24 hours from its enforcement.

The arrest order was signed by Senator Richard Gordon as the Blue Ribbon chairperson, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III. —/mbmf (with details from UNTV Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Duterte backs call for Ombudsman probe on Pharmally issue

Maris Federez   •   October 20, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte supports a call for the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct an investigation on the government’s alleged anomalous procurement of pandemic supplies.

The president was referring to the appeal of the Philippine College of Physicians for the Ombudsman to file appropriate cases against all those accountable in the controversial multibillion-peso deals between the government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp.

“We welcome the call of the Philippine College of Physicians that this matter should be immediately given to our courts and the Ombudsman. We have been saying this for the longest time and we all know that the Senate cannot prosecute. Mabuti pa ang mga doktor alam at naintindihan nila,” Duterte said.

“File cases is the right way to go. Stop using this issue in aid of election. Problema kasi sa Senate natin trying hard maghanap ng mga issue na may nangungurakot o kaya may nagkakapera,” he added.

The chief executive stated that, to date, the Senate Blue Ribbon committee has yet to build a case out of the hearings it has conducted, pointing out that that the said government deal was consistent with Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One-Act.

“And so we go back now to what has been established many times, walang overpricing […} legal ang naging proseso ng pagbili, according to what has been provided by Bayanihan 1. Na-deliver lahat at binayaran nang pagkatapos na-deliver,” the president insisted.

Duterte also dared the Senate to bring the matter to the proper courts.

“And if you think that you have identified companies with tax issues, then file the appropriate cases. Matagal na naman namin sinasabi, kasuhan niyo ang mga dapat kasuhan. Lahat naman talaga dapat magbayad ng buwis at kung kailangan magbayad, singilan para magbayad iyong may mga atraso sa gobyerno kagaya ni Senator Gordon,” Duterte said.

“Eh you call my memorandum ‘stupid?’ Well, I challenge you: bring your arguments to the proper court and I will answer you,” he further stated.

The president also slammed Senator Richard Gordon for threatening to cut the budget of the executive department if the officials will not attend the Blue Ribbon’s hearings, calling it a blatant abuse of power.

“You threaten the budget of different agencies of the Executive because the officials refuse to attend to your hearings. Ito ‘yung mga pang-abuso talaga itong masabi ko sa gobyerno — sa gobyerno ‘pag ka demokrasya, itong separation of powers, co-equal and everything; and they threatened to paralyze government,” Duterte said.

“I challenge you, do it. ‘Pag ka ‘yung mga hearing reduce the budget by one third, hinahamon ko kayo, gawain ninyo ‘yan,” he added. —/mbmf

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