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Alan Peter Cayetano joins call for Senate hearings on DepEd laptop deal

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Alan Peter Cayetano joins call for Senate hearings on DepEd laptop deal
In this July 22, 2019 photo, then House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano arrives at the House of Representatives for the State of the Nation Address.
Philtar.com / James Relativo

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to probe into laptops for public school teachers that the Commission on Audit has flagged for being too expensive, saying the panel would be the best place to find the truth about the deal.

State auditors have flagged the P2.4-billion deal for laptops that the Department of Education bought through the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service. Auditors said the laptops were too expensive and were outdated.

Speaking at a press briefing with reporters at the Senate on Monday, Cayetano said he had filed a resolution for hearings and that he was expecting the DepEd to be receptive to the calls for a probe. He also expressed "full faith" that former President Rodrigo Duterte had nothing to do with the possible anomalies.

"Is this the modus of the secretaries? I think we should look at how an award-winning agency can be so problematic simply by changing the head... At least in one or two hearings they can establish if there were anomalies. There are more questions than answers every time the DBM is mentioned," he said. 

Sen. Francis Tolentino, chair of the Blue Ribbon Committee, said in June when he was being considered to head the high-profile panel, that senators should have time to determine if full-blown hearings are needed.

"We should be wary of the resources of the government. We should be wary of the time of the persons being invited, as well as the resources of the Senate as well as the public interest," he said then.

Cayetano on Monda warned that "if we don't hold a hearing, then others will be emboldened because it's so simple to get away with it." He added DepEd and DBM officials will have the chance to provide an explanation for the flagged procurement.

The Commission on Audit, in its annual audit report, said that the DepEd central office's purchase of 39,583 laptops for public school teachers were "pricey" for entry-level laptops with older Intel Celeron processors.

The senator and former running mate of Duterte in 2016 said that the two main issues are the graft — which came in the form of inefficiency in the middle of the pandemic — and the possible corruption that translated in the overpricing of the supposedly starter-level laptops that were supposed to go for public school teachers. 

The PS-DBM was also behind the government’s questionable procurement of COVID-19 supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. 

"The question on the price of the laptops can best be answered by the procurement service of the Department of Budget and Management as the procuring entity for the units. The [education] department only received laptops from PS-DBM," the DepEd said in a statement in response to backlash online.

Cayetano said that a probe in aid of legislation was necessary as press releases and briefings are not under oath. 

"What they have to find out is it a simple mistake or is it part of a bigger conspiracy? Did they give the specs? Why did they accept it? It's very blatant, so it should be simple to explain," Cayetano said.

COMMISSION ON AUDIT

DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT-PROCUREMENT SERVICE

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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