MANILA— The Senate on Friday issued an arrest order against former budget Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao due to his absence in the continuing investigation into government's supposed mismanagement of pandemic funds.
Lao was cited in contempt on Thursday for his failure to attend the 14th day of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation. It was his 4th time to skip the session, according to the arrest order.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson this week said Lao is not covered by President Rodrigo Duterte’s order that bars government officials in the executive branch from appearing at the Senate hearings.
The Senate order said Lao was ordered arrested "for refusal to attend the [committee hearings] and thereby delaying, impeding, and obstructing the inquiry into the 2020 COA report and other issues related to budget utilization of the Department of Health (DOH) especially its expenditures related to COVID."
The former budget official was also directed to be detained at the Office of the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms until he submits the subpoenaed documents from him, the senators said.
The order was signed by Blue Ribbon Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
The panel earlier found out that Lao was in charge of handling some P42 billion in funds that the DOH transferred to the Department of Budget and Management's procurement service (PS-DBM) without proper documentation.
Senators have also said that Lao is liable under anti-graft laws after Pharmally got billions of pesos in contracts despite a net-working capital of just nearly P600,000 in 2019.
The panel so far recommended various charges against Pharmally's officers, Chinese businessman and former presidential economic adviser Michael Yang, and Lao, among others, due to the allegedly anomalous transactions.
— with a report from Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News