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Deeper investigation into ₧208-million ‘plunder’ of anti-Covid funds sought

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Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon pressed Monday for a deeper probe to “unmask the mystery backer” behind the P208-million “plunder” of anti-Covid funds.

This, as Drilon said the mystery backer is the key to connect the dots in the plunder scandal hounding the Duterte administration.

The Minority Leader said in a news statement that this “mystery backer” of former head of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) Lloyd Christopher Lao and the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation is “the missing link that will connect the dots in the corruption scandal “involving procurement of Covid-19 medical supplies.”

Drilon declared that “the challenge now is to be able to identify that backer,” because that backer is the missing link that will connect the dots in this controversy.”

He added: “We see a pattern of corruption that was perpetrated by Lao and his cohorts. It cannot be done by Lao alone. Kaya mayroon siyang pinagtatakpan at iyon ang dapat nating alamin kung sino.”

According to the senator,  “the backer is an important piece of the puzzle in order for us and the Filipino people to find out the truth in this massive corruption of public funds meant to help our fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Who is Lao’s backer?” Drilon wants to know. “Who is the backer of Pharmally [supplier]?” he asked, adding, there was “no need to hide because the truth will come out.”

Huwag n’yo nang itago dahil lalabas din ang katotohanan,” said Drilon.

This as the Senate Minority Leader pressed both Lao and Pharmally to reveal their backers and the names of officials linked to alleged overpricing of several medical supplies. He recalled that as early as September last year and even before the Commission of Audit released its report, he already flagged the overpriced purchase of supplies that PS-DBM bought from Pharmally.

Moreover, the senator noted he started raising questions back in 2020, asking why PS-DBM bought 2,000 units of Covid-19 test kits from Pharmally for P344,000 or for a total of P688 million when it could be bought at P240,000 per kit. Drilon computed the purchase was overpriced by P208 million.

A former Secretary of Justice, Drilon noted that “circumstantial evidence would show patterns of corruption.”

He recalled that the uncovered plot started with the appointment of Lloyd Christopher Lao to the Department of Budget and Management as early as August 2019 despite a pending extortion case when he was chairman of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board. “Then, Lao was appointed as head of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management on January 2, 2020,” Drilon noted.

At about the same year, the senator said that the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation was incorporated in September 2019 with the Securities and Exchange of Commission (SEC) with a paid-capital of only P625,000.

He further recalled that the Government Procurement Policy Board issued a resolution on March 17, 2020 to include face masks and protective personal equipment (PPE) as common use supply to allow PS-DBM to purchase them. Later on, Drilon added, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III ordered the transfer of around P42 billion of DOH Covid-19 funds to PS-DBM starting March 27, 2020.

The Minority Leader labeled this as the “original sin that allowed the corruption to take place,” suggesting that Sec. Duque must be held liable even if he resigns, noting that  “without the transfer of P42 billion from DOH to PS-DBM, the overpricing could not have happened,” he said.

Drilon reminded that just two weeks after DOH transferred the funds to PS-DBM sans a memorandum of agreement, the procurement agency began awarding billions of contracts to Pharmally that reached about P8.6 billion in a span of less than two months from April to June 2020.

According to Drilon, Lao bought from Pharmally face masks at P27.72, when other suppliers sold the same to PS-DBM at P13.5, P16, and P17.50 for the same period.

He added that Lao also bought overpriced PPEs from Pharmally worth P3.82 billion on May 8, 2020 and test kits worth P2.88 billion on June 9, 2020. The Senate Minority Leader added that based on Pharmally’s financial statement submitted to the SEC, Pharmally’s income soared to P284.9 million in 2020 from zero declared income in 2019. Its assets also jumped to P284.9 million in 2020 from P599,000 in 2019.

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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