Who is Lloyd Christopher Lao?

Resigned DBM Usec. Lloyd Christopher Lao

Everybody wants to know the answer to this question if only to unravel the mystery of the alleged overpriced face masks and face shields purchased by the Department of Health (DOH) through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

This, as Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon urged resigned Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao to appear in the Blue-Ribbon investigation to shed light on the circumstances surrounding the procurement of allegedly overpriced face masks and face shields.

Drilon said Lao could be the “missing link” in the COA findings specifically with regard to the procurement of face masks, face shields and various medical supplies.

“He leaves behind him so many questionable transactions which we will dig into. We will not leave any stone unturned in uncovering what could be a possible overpricing in procurement service,” Drilon said in a television interview on Thursday.

Lao was the head of the procurement service of the DBM where around P42 billion in COVID-19 funds of the DOH was transferred, a move the Commission on Audit (COA) questioned due to lack of documentary requirements.

“Who is the official who directed the transfer of P42 billion? Is this done as a matter of course or is this the first time it was done? It is something unusual. A government official would be afraid to do this unless directed by somebody higher. This is what I want to find out,” Drilon said.

The former undersecretary “quietly” resigned from his post last June, Drilon noted.

“If there was overpricing, Lao should satisfactorily explain, otherwise he might be made responsible. We are not talking here of small money,” he emphasized.

Drilon said there is a possible overpricing in the purchase of face masks to the tune of P1 billion.

Citing the COA report, Drilon said the DBM-PS procured around 113,905,000 pieces of face masks from different suppliers at an exorbitant price that is as high as P27.72 apiece, which is way higher than the P2 to P5 pesos suggested retail price released by the DOH.

The procurement of face masks cost the government around P1.66 billion in sum, Drilon said. However, when compared to the P5.00 SRP of DOH for face masks, the cost should have been only around P569.52 million.

Sen. Gordon, who chairs Red Cross, confirmed during the Blue Ribbon hearing that Red Cross was able to buy face masks at around P5.00 even at the early stage of the pandemic, Drilon noted.

The minority leader also suspected a possible overpricing of the face shields amounting to P100 million.

Based on the COA report, the DBM-PS purchased 1,317,711 pieces of face shields at P120 each or for a sum of P158.13 million. However, the DOH’s suggested retail price for a face shield is anywhere between P26 to P50 per piece only, far from P120. Following the SRP of P50 for face shields, the total price should only be around P65.89 million, Drilon computed.

Drilon said Lao’s resignation as well as the sudden resignation of Budget Secretary Wendell Avisado “gives rise to a lot of speculation.”

“The public speculates, whether you like it or not, especially with the COA report and given the past incidence where the procurement service was exposed to have been accountable for the overpricing of the face masks and face shields,” he added.

Lao is said to be a former aide of Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go but the latter denied the report in a statement on Thursday.

“I wish to clarify that contrary to claims of some personalities and news outlets, former Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao of the DBM Procurement Services was never my aide. To call him such is inaccurate. He was a volunteer election lawyer of President Duterte in 2016 and was appointed to the Presidential Management (Staff),” Go said.

Go said Lao “did not directly report to me, nor did he ever serve as my aide.”

“I already assumed my post in July 2019 as an elected Senator when Lao was designated to head the PS-DBM in August 2019,” he added.