Senator: Ex-Budget official in anomalous contract had backer

THE FORMER Budget official accused of awarding a multibillion-peso contract to a local contractor for overpriced face masks and shields probably had a backer, a senator said on Sunday.

Both ex-Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., which bagged the P8.68-billion supply contract despite being new and undercapitalized, both had a backer, Senator Franklin M. Drilon told DZBB radio.

“We will force Lao to tell us who his backer is,” he said. “It’s obvious because from the very beginning, he said no one recommended him for the Department of Budget and Management. From there, you can already observe that he’s covering for someone.”

Mr. Drilon last week cited several warning signs of potential corruption in the procurement of several medical supplies by the Budget department.

He said the plunder had been planned together with other officials. “This is treachery or fraud involving national coffers during a pandemic, when funds are short,” he said in Filipino.

Mr. Drilon earlier cited as anomalous the choice of contractors of questionable qualifications. Pharmally earned P284.9 million in 2020, from zero income in 2019 after bagging P8.68 billion worth of government contracts, he said. He accused the Budget department of having given the contractor “the sure ticket to wealth.”

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson during Friday’s hearing asked Mr. Lao what type of due diligence was done before the agency awarded billions of funds to Pharmally.

Mr. Lao said they did not have a copy of Pharmally’s general information sheet so they did not have an idea about bogus addresses that the company allegedly used in its registration documents.

Mr. Drilon said Mr. Lao faces the risk of contempt by the Senate blue ribbon committee if he refuses to tell the truth.

He also said the former chief of the Budget department’s procurement office was negligent at the very least for allowing the contract to proceed.

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson at the weekend said Mr. Lao, a lawyer had failed to conduct due diligence on Pharmally.  Alyssa Nicole O. Tan

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