Since he is not covered by President Rodrigo Duterte's Executive Order barring Cabinet members from attending a Senate hearing on the purchase of allegedly overpriced COVID-19 medical supplies, a former Budget Undersecretary was cited in contempt for failing to appear in the Blue Ribbon committee probe yesterday.
Former Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, who used to head the Procurement Service of the DBM (PS-DBM) failed anew to appear at the resumption of the hearing.
Committee chairperson Richard Gordon asked Senator Francis Pangilinan if he would issue an order of contempt or a show cause to Lao who has not been attending the hearings. Senator Risa Hontiveros seconded the motion.
“I don’t think we need to issue a show cause order to him to ask why he should not be declared in contempt. We are now issuing that [contempt] order,” Gordon said.
Gordon said Lao was no longer a government official and was thus not covered by the President's EO.
Senator Panfilo Lacson previously said he would file a contempt motion against Lao if he would not attend the present hearing.
He had also recommended the filing of graft charges against Lao for allowing Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation to bag huge contracts despite its lack of financial capacity.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, asked concerned agencies to file charges against Pharmally executives for “material misstatements” in their income tax returns.
Asian Consulting Group president and chief executive officer Raymond Abrea said Pharmally had material misstatements such as P74 million in unaccounted cash, P3.4 billion in unsupported purchases, P898 million in VAT due, P92 million in forex gains, P121 million in inventory, P33 million in donations, P60 million in undisclosed trade payables and P32 million in overstated expenses.
"Let me place on record, Mr. Chairman, that these material misstatements as being pointed out, can be considered as false entries, at least a prima facie case of false entries," said Drilon.
Under the National Internal Revenue Code, specifically Sec. 257, false entries, Drilon said violations are punishable by imprisonment ofanywhere from two years and one day to four years. In case those involved are foreigners, they will be deported.
Gordon also deplored the exclusion of Filipino manufacturers in favor of Chinese companies in the procurement of supplies for the government’s COVID-19 response.
He said the Coalition of Filipino Manufacturers of PPE (personal protective equipment) during last week’s hearing testified how local suppliers were left out.
Gordon said this was one of the findings of the committee, which is a violation of the Bayanihan law mandating preference for local suppliers.
"There were local suppliers after all, specializing in masks and PPEs and, at the last hearing, we were informed of their sufficient capacity to supply. Why did PS-DBM not take advantage of this?” Gordon said.