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Bong Go: DBM exec in overpriced face masks issue not my aide, a volunteer for Duterte in 2016

Senator Bong Go on Thursday denied that former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao was his former aide.

Go made the remark after Lao’s name was mentioned during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee discussions on overpriced face shields and face masks which was earlier flagged by the Commission on Audit.

“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," Go said in a statement.

"To call him such is inaccurate,” he added. "He was a volunteer election lawyer of President Duterte in 2016 and was appointed to the Presidential Management.”

Lao was later appointed to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board and to the DBM in 2019.

Lao had resigned from DBM two months ago, according to DBM officer-in-charge Tina Rose Canda.

“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,” Go said.

From 2016 to late 2018, Go served as Duterte’s top aide as Special Assistant to the President.

He resigned from the post when he filed his certificate of candidacy for his 2019 senatorial run.

The website of the Procurement Service said, "Some of the most notable positions he occupied in the government are, among others, as Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB); Undersecretary of the Presidential Management Staff – Office of the Special Assistant to the President; an Arbiter for Regional Field Office, HLURB – Southern Mindanao Region; and researcher, paralegal under Councilor Galicia who handles the Committee on Housing and Settlement and Ethics– Sangguniang Panlungsod."

In the same statement, Go expressed support for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s probe on Department of Health’s use of the funds intended for the government’s COVID-19 response.

Lao’s name was mentioned during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing on Wednesday when the lawmakers raised the issue of overpriced face shields and face masks which was earlier flagged by the Commission on Audit.

Canda told the committee that it was during Lao’s stint when the DBM-PS procured bulks of face masks bought at a price of P27.22 each and face shields priced at P120 each.

On Twitter, former Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, citing news reports, claimed that Lao used to be Go’s aide.

He also said that Lao was the “same person implicated in the Frigate scam along with Duterte and Bong Go.”

Last Wednesday, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon already ordered the DBM to provide the panel all the documents on the transactions entered into by Lao.

The DBM officer-in-charge was also asked to provide the last known address of Lao so that the Senate panel can invite him, if necessary, in the next hearings.

Lao previously applied for the Overall Deputy Ombudsman position, but had withdrawn his application to avoid “senseless” speculations.

This is not the first time the DBM-PS, under Lao’s supervision, was linked to allegations of overpricing.

In May 2020, Senator Panfilo Lacson had grilled the DOH and Lao over the procurement of an expensive laboratory equipment necessary for COVID-19 testing,  when  a different brand used by the private sector is available at a lower price.

In September 2020, Senator Risa Hontiveros also claimed that the DBM-PS bought overpriced China-made personal protective equipment (PPE). —NB, GMA News