Senate investigation of PS-DBM deals a waste of time?

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Opposition Sen. Risa Hontiveros wants former undersecretary Christopher Lao, who headed the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM), summoned to the Senate to answer accusations that the laptops bought by his former office were way overpriced and outdated.

The laptops, meant for public school teachers, cost the government P2.4 billion.

The Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the P2.4-billion contract for being “pricey for an entry-level laptop.” What was ludicrous about the deal was that one of the awardees was a construction company.

This will be the second time Lao will be made to appear before the Senate’s Blue Ribbon committee.

The first time was during the administration of president Digong Duterte, also for the reported gross overpricing of COVID-19 medical supplies that included face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontliners.

There was no need to buy face shields, as they were redundant when used over face masks. Other countries never used face shields.

PS-DBM bought the medical supplies from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. (Pharmally) for P8.7 billion.

“There seems to be a cast of characters whose moves have a second or third act. When the name of PS-DBM Usec Lao is involved, problems always arise,” said Hontiveros, a member of the Blue Ribbon.

From where I sit, Lao should be pitied and not condemned, because he was just a scapegoat.

Hontiveros might be shocked to know that Lao was just following orders from his superior, a prominent politician.

If Hontiveros would care to dig deep, she would know that the politician had his tentacles in almost all departments in the Duterte administration.

As I’ve said in my previous column, that politician had his heyday in the previous administration, because top officials feared him and bowed to his wishes.

At the Department of Public Works and Highways, this politician’s bagman is not a man, but a woman who is now a member of the judiciary.

*      *      *

Methinks Hontiveros and her Senate colleagues are just wasting their time going through the motions of investigating irregular deals in government that will amount to nothing.

The public saw that in the Pharmally hullabaloo. The Blue Ribbon didn’t come up with a report after the investigation about the scandalously overpriced facemasks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPEs).

Some Pharmally executives were ordered jailed by the Blue Ribbon for a long period of time for lying to the committee, but they were later released. They were not charged in court.

*      *      *

Former actor/singer Arnell Ignacio, newly appointed administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), fits his job to a tee.

Before his present assignment, Arnell was OWWA’s deputy administrator during president Digong Duterte’s watch.

My staff and I at the defunct “Isumbong mo kay Tulfo” public service program witnessed the singer/comedian’s concern for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) after being maltreated by their employers.

Arnell himself personally met the repatriated OFWs at the Manila international airport. He would listen intently while they told him of their plights abroad.

On several occasions, Arnell and my “Isumbong” staff would be together in welcoming back repatriated OFWs.

Arnell told me once that he had found his new calling as an OWWA official.

“I’ve realized that helping others and caring for the downtrodden is our mission in life,” he said.

Apparently, Arnell has had his epiphany.

I agree with Arnell a hundred percent that our mission in life is to help others, even complete strangers, for our salvation.

By “salvation,” I don’t mean being sent to hell for our transgressions in this lifetime; that’s what Western religions teach their faithful.

Salvation to me means feeling joy inside for helping the needy. Miserable people are those who don’t give a damn about the misfortune of others.

I am not preaching religion here – I don’t believe in religion and hell – I am just saying that when you help others, your effort will never go in vain because the Universe will reward you.

I remember what my father told me when he and thousands of other soldiers who fought in Bataan were interned at Camp O’Donnell in Capas, Tarlac as prisoners of war.

Everybody was sick in that concentration camp, father said. Most prisoners adopted a “to each his own, look out for yourself” attitude, apparently to survive.

Those who cared for others by giving their ration of food and medicine to very sick prisoners survived “that hell of a place” as my father described the concentration camp.

My father died in 1985, retired from the military and a very accomplished man.


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