Briones admonished but not liable for overpriced laptop deal – Senate panel
MANILA, Philippines — While former Education Secretary Leonor Briones is not liable, the Senate blue ribbon committee admonished her in connection with the alleged outdated but overpriced laptops of public school teachers.
On Thursday, panel chairman Senator Francis Tolentino disclosed to the public the committee’s findings and recommendations after investigating the P2.4 billion worth of laptops procured by the Department of Education (DepEd).
READ: Senate probe into ‘overpriced, outdated’ teachers’ laptops sought
Tolentino noted that the committee report mentioned that Briones “may have unwittingly approved” the new parameters that increased the price and decreased the number of laptops.
“Nagamit po s’ya,” he said at a press conference in the Senate.
When asked about Briones’ possible legal liability, Tolentino said, “Sa ebidesya pong lumabas, wala.”
(Based on evidence, there is none.)
“Iba po ‘yung spekulasyon, iba po ‘yung haka-haka, iba naman po ‘yung lumabas sa hearing. Lahat po ng ginawa natin ay base po sa ebidensya at base po sa batas. Pero kung meron po tayong sariling spekulasyon o haka-haka, isantabi muna natin ‘yun,” he said.
(Speculations are different from what came out in the hearing. Our investigation was based on evidence and the law. If we have any speculations, let’s set aside that first.)
“The mere mention here is in effect an admonition on the part of the blue ribbon directed to former Secretary Briones,” the senator added.
In a 197-page report, the committee noted a purchase request dated May 6, 2021, where former DepEd Undersecretary Alain Pascua recommended to Briones the approval of a new set of parameters for the approved budget for the contract or ABC.
“In the said purchase request, he cleverly disguised the reduced numbers of units by breaking the number down in lots without providing a total, and stated the aggregate estimated cost, without specifying the increased unit cost – though the column heading clearly required a unit cost, not aggregate,” the report says.
“In the mind of the committee, this was clearly a ploy to downplay the adjustments which would have alerted Secretary Briones to direct a full review of the supporting documents, seek further advice and/or withhold approval.”
“With the adjustments – which were critical and important – albeit effectively disguised, Secretary Briones may have unwittingly approved the new parameters which increased the unit price and decreased the quantity of laptops to be purchased,” it further says.
Aside from Briones, the Senate blue ribbon committee also admonished former DepEd official Marcelo Bragado for not disclosing any knowledge about the allegedly anomalous gadget purchase.
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