Ex-DBM exec Lao no longer with housing dept when accused of corruption: official

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 09 2021 03:27 PM

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MANILA — Lawyer Lloyd Christopher Lao, who headed the procurement of allegedly overpriced COVID-19 supplies, was no longer with the housing department when it received allegations of extortion against him, the agency's head said on Thursday. 

Lao was CEO and commissioner of the now-defunct Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) before he headed the budget department's Procurement Service. It is now facing a Senate investigation for purchasing allegedly overpriced anti-virus masks and face shields last year. 

Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario confirmed he received in 2019 an "anonymous letter" from the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission detailing "numerous allegations" against Lao, in connection with his HLURB stint. 

"But noong ma-receive ko ‘yon, I think that was on the first week of September of 2019, matagal nang wala sa HLURB si Atty. Lao at I think na-transfer na siya I think by June or July of 2019, andoon na siya sa DBM," Del Rosario said in a televised public briefing. 

(But when I received that, I think that was on the first week of September of 2019, Atty. Lao has long been gone from the HLURB and I think he transferred in June or July of 2019, he was already with the DBM.)

A copy of the letter obtained by Rappler accused Lao of extorting from developers of socialized housing. The cost was allegedly passed onto low-income beneficiaries of government housing. 

Del Rosario said he advised Lao's staff to get in touch with the PACC.

"Wala na akong saklaw sa kaniya at that time… I think it will be better na ibigay ko ‘yong complaint letter sa kaniya mismo at ito’y ipinadala ko sa staff," he said. 

(I no longer had jurisdiction over him at that time. I think it would be better for me to give the complaint letter to him, and I sent that to his staff.) 

The housing chief said he "did not follow up any more because he’s (Lao) not under my department anymore." 

Lao and the PACC have yet to reply to a request for comment. 

Duterte has acknowledged Lao as his fraternity brother and a member of his campaign team before being appointed to government. The President said Lao also assisted his office with legal matters when he was still mayor of Davao City. 

Addressing senators looking into transactions approved under Lao, Duterte said in late August, "You do not have the ascendancy to question this executive prerogative. Of course, I will appoint people I know and trust just like other Presidents before me."

Lao has denied overpricing in last year's pandemic transactions and said he was ready to face the Senate.