Budget chief resignation 'troublesome' as pandemic funds probed: senator

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2021 10:35 AM

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado. ABS-CBN File photo
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado. ABS-CBN File photo

MANILA - The recent resignation of Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado is "troublesome," Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said Thursday as the chamber investigates alleged mishandling of pandemic funds.

Avisado quit his post due to health reasons, Malacañang said last week after the official's recent bout with COVID-19. 

"The resignation of the Secretary is especially troublesome. The 2022 budget has not been submitted. The existence of the DBM is only because of the budget and right now it hasn’t been submitted. The resignation to me is a little unusual," Drilon told ANC's Headstart.

"We accept that but if these health reasons have been there for sometime, if they talk about the heart bypass 8 years ago--this gives rise to a lot of speculation. The public speculates whether you like it or not especially with this COA (Commission on Audit) report."

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee launched Wednesday a legislative inquiry into the COA report that found deficiencies in the Department of Health's management of its P67 billion pandemic budget.

The DOH transferred P42 billion of its COVID-19 funds to the DBM procurement service to "mask its unobligation rate and inefficiency," Drilon had said.

The agency, however, said it made the transfer to DBM to procure face masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment for medical frontliners last year.

The committee agreed to hold another hearing later this month to probe the role of former Budget Undersecretary Christopher Lloyd Lao, who allegedly supervised the procurement of the supposedly overpriced face masks and face shields for the DOH.

Lao has been asked to attend the hearing, Drilon said. When asked if Avisado will be summoned, the senator said the chamber assumes "regularity."

"We assume regularity and therefore that [if] he is sick, he is sick. We leave it at that. I don't know what (committee chairman) Senator (Richard) Gordon will decide on. As of yesterday, only Christopher Lao was required to appear before the Blue Ribbon," he said.

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