House panel summons ex-DBM execs

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
House panel summons ex-DBM execs
Facade of the House of Representatives at the Batasan Complex in Quezon City.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, File photo

MANILA, Philippines — A sub-committee of the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives has issued a show-cause order against former officials of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) in relation to the anomalous P47.6-billion Pharmally transaction.

Among those ordered to appear, with a warning of contempt should they fail to do so, are former PS-DBM chief Lloyd Christopher Lao, Warren Rex Liong, a former overall deputy ombudsman, and other former officials of the PS-DBM.

Lanao del Sur 1st District Rep. Zia Alonto Adiong, a member of the chamber’s “Young Guns” group, stressed that the presence of these former officials is paramount to the oversight functions of the House panel in the exercise of its mandate.

“For a guest speaker whose presence is very vital, very important in the conclusion of this certain inquiry, without giving justification as to his absence, I think we can request a show cause order,” Adiong said.

“So that this committee may be appraised on what the grounds are, what the reasons are, justifications on why he – I don’t know if deliberately or not deliberately – skipped this committee hearing when he was in fact given a formal invitation and there was no reply,” he added.

The panel is on its third hearing on the Pharmally controversy, and Lao and the other former officials, including Liong who was in charge of the fund transfer from the Department of Health (DOH) to the PS-DBM at that time, have continuously snubbed the congressional inquiry.

“There must be a show cause order as to what could be the next step should he decide not to attend again in the next committee hearing,” Adiong warned.

The lawmaker then moved to serve a show cause order to Lao and the other PS-DBM officials who were involved in the Pharmally controversy.

It was seconded by Manila 6th District Rep. Benny Abante and carried by the committee headed by Iloilo 1st District Rep. Janette Garin, a former DOH secretary.

Abante said these resource persons who continue to snub the hearings are courting contempt if they still fail to show up or explain their absences.

At an earlier hearing, former health secretary Francisco Duque III said former president Rodrigo Duterte directed the transfer of P47.6 billion from the DOH to the PS-DBM at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Garin argued that there should have been a memorandum of agreement on the purchase of the medical equipment and supplies as they are not “common use” supplies, contrary to the assertions made by Duque in previous hearings.

The country had incurred some P190 billion in debt in its campaign to mitigate the ill effects of the pandemic.

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