Ex-Procurement Service head Lao ordered arrested

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 5)— The Senate has ordered the arrest of resigned Budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, the former head of the Procurement Service, who was cited in contempt for snubbing hearings on anomalies in the purchase of COVID-19 supplies.

In a text message to reporters on Friday, Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III confirmed that he has signed the arrest order for Lao.

Lao did not attend the past four hearings of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, simultaneous with the no-show of Cabinet secretaries and other officials of the executive on President Rodrigo Duterte’s order.

During Thursday’s hearing, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon pointed out that Lao is now a private citizen and is no longer covered by Duterte’s memorandum. The panel then approved a motion to cite Lao in contempt.

Lao denied any wrongdoing during the previous hearings. He is backed by Duterte, who has repeatedly defended the government’s emergency procurements during the pandemic.

Lao is the fifth personality that the Senate has ordered arrested during the course of the marathon hearings on the government's transactions with controversial supplier Pharmally Pharmaceutical.

Pharmally director Linconn Ong has been detained in the Senate since September for allegedly lying and evading lawmakers' questions. There are pending arrest warrants for two other Pharmally executives, Mohit and Twinkle Dargani, as well as the corporation's supposed financier, Chinese businessman and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang.

Gordon wants them charged for graft and corruption but no formal recommendation has been made yet.

The hearings have shown that Pharmally has bagged more than ₱10 billion in government contracts despite lack of financial capability. It also sourced medical goods from other suppliers, resulting in jacked up prices. Senators have requested the Bureau of Internal Revenue to conduct a special audit on Pharmally for suspected tax evasion.