Lacson: Corruption Worsening Government Response to Delta Variant

Lacson: Corruption Worsening Government Response to Delta Variant

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — 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 the 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. (ai/mtvn)

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