Senate panel summons ex-DBM exec Lao to probe on DOH fund use
MANILA, Philippines — The Senate blue ribbon committee has issued a subpoena summoning former budget undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao to the panel’s inquiry into the Department of Health’s (DOH) handling of pandemic funds earlier flagged by state auditors.
In a statement Monday, committee chairman Senator Richard Gordon said he signed a Subpoena Ad Testificandum, approved by Senate President Vicente Sotto III, requiring the attendance of Lao to the panel’s next hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Lao, who resigned last June, was the head of the DBM’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) when “bulk purchases” of masks and face shields were made.
“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,” Gordon said.
Lao is not new to Senate investigations as he was already earlier invited as a resource person when the chamber in September last year looked into the purchase of allegedly overpriced medical supplies.
Last week, Lao’s name resurfaced in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing after senators questioned the allegedly overpriced face masks and face shields procured by the DOH through the DBM-PS.
In a recent press briefing, Lao said he is willing to attend the hearing next week “to shed light on the matter.”
The former DBM-PS head also explained that the face masks and shields flagged as “overpriced” were the cheapest they could find at the time they were procured.
“Mr. Lao is still in the Philippines, or at least, has not left the country, as certified by the Bureau of Immigration. This is a good sign that can only mean to indicate that he is not fleeing and can help us in our investigation in bringing light to the seemingly murky processes of government procurement,” Gordon went on.
A subpoena ad testificandum “compels the person so summoned to appear before it to answer questions regarding the matter being heard and discussed,” according to the senator’s statement.
“Refusal or failure to appear can be subject to a contempt citation, which the Committee of the Senate has previously, and on occasion, imposed,” it added.
In order to ensure that the subpoena is served, the blue ribbon sought the assistance of the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation, it further said.
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