Lao asks Senate panel to reconsider arrest order; Gordon tells him to surrender first | Inquirer News
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Lao asks Senate panel to reconsider arrest order; Gordon tells him to surrender first

/ 06:12 PM November 22, 2021
Former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao at Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing last Sept. 7. FILE PHOTO

Former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao at Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing last Sept. 7. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Former Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao has asked the Senate blue ribbon committee to reconsider his arrest order and appealed for a “non-hostile” hearing, but the panel advised him to just immediately submit himself to the custody of the upper chamber.

In a letter addressed to blue ribbon panel chairman Richard Gordon, Lao said his “utmost respect” to the committee with “sincere intention to help it obtain facts or gather information” relative to the government’s procurement of medical supplies at the height of the pandemic.

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Lao, in his letter to Gordon dated Nov. 5 and was shared with reporters Monday, argued that he “religiously appeared and actively participated” in nine hearings of the blue ribbon committee as well as those conducted in the House of Representatives.

He said he had been “candid and truthfully answered all questions” posed by the senators “without understatements or exaggerations or fear of being disfavored, having in mind the best interest of the state and the effective transmission of the truth.”

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‘Witch hunt’

Despite this, Lao lamented that he was “berated, insulted, maligned, prejudged of having committed a crime and treated like a criminal without rights.”

“The environment during the hearing has become so hostile against me that it was no longer healthy for my personal well-being nor consistent with the rule of law,” he said.

“Even an accused in court of law is accorded rights so sacred that it is ingrained in every judicial or investigational procedure but these were not observed nor accorded to me in the aforesaid Senate hearings,” he added.

Lao further said the hearings of the blue ribbon committee had “become more of a prosecution against me for the public’s impression rather than a Senate investigation in aid of legislation.”

‘Non-hostile’ Senate inquiry

He also alleged that his basic rights were disregarded and that he was left “indefensible as it became more of witch hunt instead of threshing out the truth to the point that I was not allowed to explain my side and was even ordered to shut up.”

Nevertheless, Lao said he is “more than willing to attend and testify if heretofore called upon in a non-hostile” Senate inquiry.

“I would not willingly put myself into the firing line moreso purposely participate in a proceeding where my constitutional rights are trampled and disregarded, for I have not shed my constitutional rights at the doorway when I participated in the Senate inquiry as a resource person,” he added.

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On Nov. 4, Lao was slapped with a contempt citation for not attending the hearings of the blue ribbon committee in four instances.

The Senate ordered Lao’s arrest the next day. Until now, however, he has yet to be placed under the custody of the upper chamber.

Gordon’s response

In responding to Lao’s letter, Gordon advised the former budget official to “submit yourself to the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms first at the soonest possible time” if he wishes that the committee act on his motion for reconsideration.

Gordon told Lao that his arrest order will “continue to subsist and the search for your person will not cease until the Sergeant-at-Arms is able to take you into custody.”

“Please be aware that you have not made yourself available to the Committee for further questions in the last four hearings: October 5, October 19, October 28, and November 4. This refusal to attend, despite due notice, constrained the Committee to cite you for contempt,” the senator said in his letter dated Nov. 15.

“After the citation and an Order of Arrest had been duly issued, you have made yourself even more scarce, exhibiting your lack of respect for legal processes of a duly- constituted authority,” he added.

“You are a lawyer, and thus need not be reminded what presumption flight creates,” Gordon further said.

The blue ribbon committee has been investigating the government’s purchases of medical goods, including allegedly overpriced face masks, shields, and other supplies, at the height of the pandemic last year.

During the course of the inquiry, senators have repeatedly questioned the Department of Health’s transfer of P42 billion to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) for the purchase of pandemic response supplies.

Lao was the PS-DBM’s executive director at the time the said transfer and procurements were made.

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TAGS: arrest order, Lloyd Christopher Lao, pandemic spending, Senate, Senate blue ribbon committee, Senator Richard Gordon
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