Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: September 2021
Wednesday, 29 September 2021 08:56

A curious case of Republicans dying of Covid

AMERICA holds the world's worst record on Covid-19. To date, 706,000 Americans are dead, 14.8 percent of 4.75 million deaths worldwide, while 333 million Americans comprise only 4.3 percent of the world's 7.8 billion population. Go figure!

Donald Trump is no longer president. But his incompetence and criminal disdain for American lives make him among the worst American presidents ever. This is his legacy. But Trump is hardly alone in this. He had the American fringe as accomplices; the Trumpers, his fanatical cohorts whose ideological precepts may be labeled as Trumpism — a compendium of conservative social and political beliefs lodged within the right-wing spectrum of the Republican Party never seen before in US presidential politics.

Trumpers/Trumpists/Trumpism

American political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, who died before Trump's ascendancy, demarcated a class of Americans, generally white male, less likely to have a college degree, making $50,000 annually or less, describing themselves as "conservatives." Fusing this self-avowal with the lower class from whence they sprung, places them in the category of the "working-class authoritarians." Lipset further postulates their "authoritarian predispositions and ethnic prejudice flow more naturally from the situation of the lower classes than from that of middle and upper classes." Donald Trump appealed to this type becoming the "staunchest champion of the white working class that American politics has seen in decades...[these] working-class groups have proven to be the most nationalistic and jingoistic sector of the population." (Jordan Smith, National Journal)

A symbiosis ripened between Trump and this class. He was attracted to them as he inspired the mob. He was not born to this class but imbibed its intellectual proclivities and embraced its language. Political sociologists suggest that these Americans in the lower strata are drawn to extremist movements and "once recruited, they will not be alienated by its lack of democracy, while more educated or sophisticated supporters will tend to drop away." (Jordan Smith, National Journal) Hillary Clinton in 2016 described them as a "basket of deplorables"; racist, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic — and Trump lifted them up. Their politics lean heavily toward the Republican Party. These Trumpers, white supremacists, the dregs of the Republicans, fight for dominance of the party's mainstream. Their sentiments regenerate the Republican agenda, their politics seeping into their political conversation, parroted in the US Congress and in red state legislatures; their syntax artlessly arranged to sway the least common denominator of the inarticulate during political rallies. Their grievances are insanely eclectic, from a delusional stolen election demanding Trump's reinstatement as president; to voter suppression targeting black democrats; to banning abortion; to imposing racial standards on immigrants, particularly from Islamic countries. But the more dangerous pronouncements are pandemic related.

A terrible scenario

A grim development is unfolding in America's fight against Covid-19. Thanks to Trump's Operation Warp Speed, the big pharmaceuticals — driven by profit motive, capitalism's leitmotif, particularly at a time of a global catastrophe — responded with alacrity. What could have taken years of vaccine development was accomplished in just two. China, Germany and India were well into vaccinating their citizens, with China extending its sphere of influence in Asia. America has a different story to tell. Even with available vaccines that can potentially cover their population twice over, the Americans did not react fast and well enough. Consequently, a surging new Delta variant overtook their communities.

Well into the US vaccine rollout, statistics show that a third of Americans have refused inoculation. The Trumpers are in the forefront preaching anti-vaccine, anti-masking and anti-social distancing, woven into all sorts of conspiracy theories and reinforced by Fox News and right-wing media. All these vehement objections are coated with a patina of cherished concepts of liberty and freedom. They will not be dictated upon. Their individual rights to choose must prevail over the mandates of government. This is the American way! The paradox is that Trump has had his two vaccine jabs, and 90 percent of Fox News personnel have already been inoculated.

This incessant hammering by the Trumpers has distorted the pandemic narrative. In the 2020 presidential elections, 17 of the 18 states that voted for Trump have the lowest vaccination rates. And they have a higher morbidity ratio particularly among the Trumpers' demographics of 65 years old and above. These data show Covid deaths affect white Republican families disproportionately, with the possible exception of black Democrats where healthcare disparities exist. In this case, race comes into the picture as black Americans are more likely to die from Covid than white Americans — whether Republicans or Democrats.

CNN's gruesome figures reveal that "86 percent of Democrats have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 inoculation compared to just 45 percent of Republicans. And 38 percent of Republicans say they will definitely not get any doses of vaccine. Of 10 states where Covid-19 cases rose more than 10 percent in the last week, eight have Republican governors. More than 99 percent of deaths from Covid-19 in June were in unvaccinated people...states with low vaccine rates have almost triple the rate of new Covid-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. Unvaccinated people were five times more likely to get Covid-19 than vaccinated peers and 29 times more likely to be hospitalized for their infections." This evidence shows that there are more unvaccinated Republicans than Democrats. And more of the former die of Covid-19.

Now America is in the midst of the 2022 campaign for the med-term elections. Trump has of late roused his fanatical base to push for the state, local legislative districts and in the congressional elections. Their political rallies are classic Delta variant super-spreaders. Killing off the Trumpers, the most dependable of GOP voters may not be the best political strategy — except for the Democrats.

Trumpist influencers

Backstopping the Trumpers are personalities who rule the airwaves – radio-TV. A sampling of these right-wing radio hosts was all over the place rousing the mob against the vaccines.

Dick Farrel, the anchor of Newsmax TV of NBC affiliate WPTV of West Palm Beach, was known as the other Rush Limbaugh. He was a staunch advocate against the vaccines and called Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and chief medical adviser to the US president, a "lying freak." He died on Aug. 4, 2021. He was 65.

Marc Bernier is known as "Mr. Anti-Vax" on his weekday WNDB radio show from Daytona Beach. He was a respected conservative radio host for over 30 years. He was 65 years old when he died of Covid-19 in late August.

Phil Valentine of Nashville, Tennessee, talk show host of SuperTalk 99.7 WTN was skeptical of coronavirus vaccines. A radio personality for some 40 years, he had a wide following with his program syndicated in 100 stations in the US. Moved into a critical care facility, he regretted "he wasn't a more vocal advocate of the vaccination...I wish I had gotten it!" He died last August at 61 years old.

These influencers refused to be vaccinated while they had the chance. In their intensive-care deathbeds, they regretted forgoing vaccination. Too late!

The pandemic is still raging worldwide killing millions. In America, vaccines are widely available. Covid-19 should be non-political. Unless unthinking humans force the virus to choose sides.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 22 September 2021 11:46

Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad

THIS classic phrase illustrates what is happening in the highest institutions of our country today, the legislative and the executive. These two democratic institutions - in theory co-equal and durable (including the judiciary) - are meant to be interdependent branches of government with powers defined by our Constitution. But in reality, man-made as they are, the presidency can be "more equal"; nonetheless, both are fickle. Institutional dynamics are significantly prejudiced by the people presiding over them. We refer specifically to the constructs within these separate institutions: the blue ribbon committee of chairman Richard Gordon and the office of the presidency. The two central characters, I fear, have of late gone mad! Not mad as in "angry, infuriated or livid," but mad as in "insane"! The public has never witnessed such vicious hostility between two protagonists in a combat by proxy in a separate arena; one in the Senate's hallowed halls, the other at the nightly Malacañang Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases press briefings with social media stoking the carnage. The fight, nonetheless, is as gory as a gladiatorial mano a mano: personal, lethal and dirty. None will win. But the losers are our institutions.

Genesis of a corruption

What started as a moro-moro traditionally presaging an election circus season turned nasty when the blue ribbon, a legitimate subsidiary to the Senate's constitutionally mandated oversight functions over the executive departments, was convened to look into what the Commission on Audit flagged as irregularities in the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) during this pandemic. President Duterte's knee-jerk response to castigate the harbinger of bad news, not the bad news itself, prompted the convening of the blue ribbon to dig further. True enough, the Department of Health (DoH)-Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) funds transfer in itself was proscribed.

It should be noted that there was no love lost between the ambitious senator and the President now perceived to be an easy adversary entering lame-duck status.

The Deegong was clearly at a disadvantage as the Senate was performing its mandate. But the wily and overzealous senator has eroded the high ground by a performance that is less than stellar. Although his bamboozling of witnesses, unable to put a word in edgewise before the senator's machinegun-like spittle-scattering questions, ferreted out some ugly facts amidst panic and confusion.

What has been learned so far

The blue ribbon hearings have shown that a scam is being perpetrated in the procurement of PPE, with the culpable bureaucracy appallingly exploiting a world crisis brought on by the pandemic. The details have by now been digested by the public; that the DoH illegally transferred P42 billion of its funds to the procurement service of the PS-DBM to outsource the bidding and purchase of PPE and other related, pandemic supplies; that the PS-DBM bought overpriced surgical masks from various suppliers but favoring the under-capitalized Chinese subsidiary Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., topping more than P8.7 billion. The stink has diffused to high heavens and will not dissipate on Duterte's simple say-so, demanding that he be taken on faith.


The Chinese connection and the involvement of close colleagues of the President was perfunctorily established by the blue ribbon. Although not directly accused of corruption himself, the President's subsequent vehement defense of his Chinese colleagues, particularly of his erstwhile "economic adviser," Michael Yang, in a diatribe is reminiscent of a line in Hamlet's - "the lady doth protest too much, methink."

The next moves

To halt the hemorrhage of possible incriminating evidence and an attempt to cover for his men, Duterte recently ordered government officials to clear with him before appearing at Senate hearings. This has been done by past presidents through declaration of executive privilege. The Supreme Court didn't agree. Admittedly, senior executives and hundreds of "resource persons" time-wasting appearances under pain of "Senate contempt" have more to do with the Senate's vanity-driven measures asserting its oversight functions than anything else. Only a handful are called with the rest twiddling their thumbs over hearings that last for four to seven hours. But this presidential injunction could also derail the 2022 national budget deliberations, exacerbating the economic collapse which has already caused massive unemployment and Covid-driven business closures.

At this point, the public has had its fill of the sordid facts, innuendo and chismis surrounding the month-long moro-moro. Perhaps the blue ribbon has enough goods on the massive corruption of this government to ensnare the miscreants and prove them all to be criminally liable and pass these on to the appropriate courts. And revert back to the more important concerns of the country - resolving the pandemic and its resultant economic depredations.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the more restrained among the President's men, has this to say: "Just file the necessary cases and leave it to the experts tasked to investigate them while you (Senate) do your jobs to legislate or conduct investigation properly in aid of legislation. By doing so, you can preserve your energy for the coming elections."

The blue ribbon may have squeezed out the last extracts from government corruption leaving only the residue relevant to the election season; and allowing further alibi for the President to regain his strong-man repute disputing a lame-duck status. The President, piqued by Senator Gordon and intolerant of criticism, has vowed to campaign against the senator - which may instead guarantee Gordon's reelection.

What are the stakes

In retrospect, all these contribute to what ails the Philippines today. Our concept of governance is defective and bankrupt, among other things. On one level, traditional political practices are pervasive resulting in personality-centered electoral politics, the motivating factors driving the rivalry between power centers – the legislative and the executive branches - each using its constitutionally sanctioned prerogatives as weapons. On the one hand is the Senate's oversight function over the executive branch, and on the other is the executive branch's prerogatives and license over the regulatory agencies. Both have potential for abuse. And in these hearings, both have shamelessly transgressed the parameters of their discretion.

On another level, our inherently defective system has a paucity of transparency and accountability. The blue ribbon has uncovered fraud in the use of public money. The appropriate response would have been for the executive branch to investigate anomalies and prosecute the same. The Duterte doctrine of dismissing on a mere "whiff of corruption" would have been a deterrent if applied promptly. Instead, Duterte's knee-jerk reaction was to deny the presence of corruption, initiate ad hominem assaults on the investigators and a personal aggressive defense of the rent-seekers and perpetrators.

All these occurring during the country's highest regime of pain and trauma, the continued harvest of dead souls through mismanagement of the pandemic and its resultant economic devastation. The repercussions are wide and long-term, and the aftermath is grim. The leadership of today's branches of government will be answerable to the generations to come.

Enough is enough! We need our leadership in all branches of government to hunker down and prioritize their next moves. Politics must be deleted from the equation. The hearings could stop now, and the President must prosecute the corrupt. He has eight months more to rule. Until then, he is accountable for Filipino lives yet to be wasted.

Or they can continue this madness. And the gods deliver us from them.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 15 September 2021 08:20

The Chinese connection

THE blue ribbon did live up to its billing. Some of the notorious dramatis personae involved in the questionable personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement deal showed up via Zoom occasioned by threats of Senate contempt and arrests.

Virtually present were the Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. (PPC) executives and their padrino Michael Yang. This shadowy figure, not even a Filipino, was privileged an appointment as President Rodrigo "Deegong" Duterte's "economic adviser" and escorted the Pharmally International Holding (PIH) executives to Duterte in China in 2015 and in Davao in December 2017 - caught in a video clip that went viral. Such an escort service is known by many labels - consultant, facilitator, bagman, pagador or locally, as bugaw (pimp), depending on the package offered and bought. Those identified in the video were a veritable rogues' gallery: Huang Wen Lei (Tony Huang), his son and PPC Philippine subsidiary Director Huang Tzu Yen and Zhang Bingquiang, all wanted in Taiwan for financial crimes. The PIH's Philippine subsidiary cabal completes the Chinese connection - Linconn Ong, Huang Tzu Yen, Rose Lin and a host of Chinese names further obscured by aliases.

What came out in the hearing is a shocking possibility that the undercapitalized Pharmally that bagged P8.68 billion in government contracts with zero track record may have been a conduit of drug money laundered through these transactions. The Senate is now enlarging the hearings to include the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Bizarre theater or danse macabre

The blue ribbon committee hearing has established that with the acquiescence of Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd, Undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao facilitated the allegedly irregular P42 billion (and more) PPE procurement, including the anomalous fund transfers from the Department of Health to the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM). A well-placed lawyer within Duterte's circle - a presidential appointee to various sensitive government positions landing as DoH undersecretary and finally ensconced at the PS-DBM, Lao - reportedly a stooge of Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go who has denied it - is at the center of this maelstrom. At the hearings, he admitted that no due diligence was conducted on Pharmally, an absurdity that was ignominiously backed by Duterte's spokesperson, Harry Roque Jr. "Under the law we have a principle that a corporation has a separate personality, separate and distinct from the stockholders...there is no need to assess the personality behind the corporation because it's a separate personality." Negligently awarding billions to a practically "unknown company" and requiring only a casual background check on the incorporators and executives who turn out to be fugitives from justice - is simply irresponsible and may even be criminal.

The procurement was sanctioned under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that gave Duterte vast emergency powers - exempting the President from the Government Procurement Act - allowing emergency negotiated purchasing. Roque claims there was no overpricing since all countries were competing for PPE and prices are dictated by supply and demand, ignorantly oblivious of externalities and leakages distorting supply/demand dynamics. Documents disclosed local competitors delivered comparatively low prices - egregiously far below Pharmally's. But overpricing may no longer be an issue. It could have been ghost deliveries.

In all these, Malacañang was complicit, not simply naïve. This brings to mind how enamored our President is with China. God forbid, if China holds the Deegong by the balls and by inference, we Filipinos!

Implications

This massive procurement anomaly as played out is even made more onerous, against a backdrop of a global health catastrophe, when Filipinos are dying, where quarantine and lockdowns with no end in sight cause massive job losses; while functionaries in the highest levels of government cohabit with sleazy Chinese gangsters; in effect altogether sucking the lifeblood of our people. All these surfaced only because the blue ribbon unearthed some facts and at first some innuendoes pointing towards the Deegong through Secretary Duque, Senator Go and Undersecretray Lao. Former senator Serge Osmeña put it succinctly: "Duterte got caught...and ayaw niya mangyari is that they will be able to find out who these guys are...and who made money on [the deal]. Nagkakandarapa sila ngayon kasi huling-huli sila."

The President could have allowed the blue ribbon to go through the charade - as he once declared that these were merely senatorial grandstanding. "No recommendations; no lawsuits; nobody goes to jail. It's all just posturing," Duterte declared, conveniently skirting his own responsibility as the executive branch does the prosecution and incarceration. And a melodramatic brazen nonsequitur: "I, your President, you trusted me; you voted for me. I am the last person to fool you. When I am no longer president, kill me if I committed mistakes or told you lies."

And the President's men, Duque, together with one of the Christophers - law fraternity brother Lao, not the surrogate son Go - could have been sacrificed as pawns to sanitize the presidency. Connecting the dots could lead inevitably to Malacañang and the ever-loyal Bong Go was at its gates to "fall on his sword." Not anymore, saved by the PDP-Laban elevating him to an eminence grise - a presidentiable! The election circus coming to town with various permutations –-Go-Duterte, Sara-Go, Sara-Duterte, ad infinitum - could have been employed as diversionary tactics blowing all these away. But Duterte may have miscalculated and panicked. What could have been just a pissing contest between the Deegong and the Dick (Sen. Richard Gordon) turned into an exposé of government nefarious dealings beyond a whiff of corruption amid a swirling vortex of prevarications, exacerbated by Duterte's untutored long-winded gibberish defense of his Chinese friends.

Truth will out

This verbal free-for-all has turned ugly, going down to the gutter-level with childish ad hominems and non sequitors: "Magpapayat ka muna" to the Dick; "lahat kayo, pati si Ping [Lacson], iba ang hairdo!" The President using the full force of government media with his almost nightly tirades, digging up dirt thrown at the Dick, from allegedly using Philippine Red Cross (PRC) funds to an ignorant threat of Commission on Audit auditing this private entity has degraded political discourse. While the Dick who never did accuse the President directly of involvement in a crime but did so by innuendo held the high ground, aware of the dictum that "he who loses his temper, loses the argument and loses respect." And the President did just that!

The blue ribbon known for its witness intimidation, and yes, grandstanding, may yet acquit itself. To the detriment of our decent Chinese Filipino community, it has demonstrated Malacañang's sleazy preference for foreign Chinese businessmen and fugitives - particularly after the Deegong's impassioned apologia for Michael Yang. This blue ribbon brouhaha is in some peculiar way reminiscent of the Deegong's bromance with China (Taiwan being a province), putting on center stage once more his favored treatment for bloodsucking Chinese POGO workers ("The sinification of the Philippines, The Manila Times, Feb. 26, 2020) and his pretend show of force against Chinese encroachment on the West Philippines Sea.

This is far from over. The blue ribbon may produce no convictions and incarcerations - these are executive branch prerogatives. But what will persist during this pandemic is the ubiquitous emblem of this government's corruption and impunity that we wear daily - these Chinese overpriced face masks and shields - the latter not even sanctioned by the World Health Organization or required by any other country in the world.

Onli in da Pilipins!
Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 08 September 2021 05:38

Corruption in the time of Covid

THIS is not a take from Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "El Amor en los Tiempos del Colera" (The Manila Times, Dec. 16, 2020). This is simply a paraphrase of the title of that excellent novel as a simile for the corruption being exposed at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings that appear to be closing in on the highest officials of the land. The novel was a backdrop for romance in the time of an epidemic; but unlike the novel, the current pandemic is proving to be an opportunity for depravity perpetrated by President Duterte's men. It does not have the romance of the original, but the current narrative has all the allure of drama, plots and subplots as uncovered in bits and pieces by Senators Richard "Dick" Gordon, Franklin Drilon and their cohorts.

They have in some ways elicited from the incompetent (or guilt-ridden) witnesses responses, bits and pieces of facts, evidence, and innuendo that have of late began to ensnare unfamiliar Chinese names barely whispered in the corridors of power. The Senate hearings, in attempting to uncover these connections, have resorted to their own public display of melodrama. This could be a long-drawn-out performance - a counter diversion from the Las Familias de Duterte telenovela (see my TMT Sept. 1, 2021, column).

Legislative 'moro-moro'

The next episode of the hearings is on September 7 (after this column's publication); new facts may be revealed, and plots unravel. These hearings' stated objective is the disclosure of the truth by probing into government shenanigans. But in the hands of these wily senators, upheld by the chamber's constitutionally mandated oversight functions over the executive departments, this is an "in your face" confrontation with the President, exploiting the hearings to advance some senator's not so hidden agenda. The revelations are dangerously closing in on Malacañang. To be fair, the Deegong has not been implicated directly but the barbs thrown at him are sharp and lethal. It is unfortunate that Duterte in his naïveté has taken the bait and his retorts have been true to form - pedestrian, belligerent, unthought of and uncalled for. He admonished his cabinet people appearing before the blue ribbon to refuse to respond - if they feel the senatorial inquisitions are becoming obnoxious. And if held in contempt and incarcerated, Duterte has assured them of "ways to get them out." This is an irresponsible presidential veiled threat - escalating his recent challenge to disregard the Senate for "grandstanding" and pressuring the Commission on Audit to "stop flagging anomalies." He has absurdly appealed to the public to boot these miscreant senators out of office in the coming elections. The Deegong has bitten more than he can chew. The Constitution is unequivocal on the Senate's prerogatives.

A travesty

On the other hand, the blue ribbon has become an extension of the feisty personality of its chairman, Senator Gordon - smart, articulate, abrasive and a bully. His staccato line of questions is meant to stun the witnesses, cowing them into submission and provoking responses that seemingly must adhere to his script. Any deviation incites a barrage of further ripostes bordering on insults. The TV audience is either entertained or appalled by this behavior, but overall, it impacts negatively on the truth being ferreted out. There is something sinister about the TV lights and camera focusing on a legislator that induces personality transformation in a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde configuration. The inquisitor becomes the investigator, prosecutor and judge rolled into one. The hearings, although morsels of truth may trickle out, become more an attempt by the chairman, known to have presidential aspirations, as an early campaign platform rather than one "in aid of legislation." And facts and truth suffer.

'Davao Mafiosi'

And here come the unconscionable regional insults, which more often than not reflect the decades-long contrived supremacy of the centrally based Metro Manila media. I flinched at pundits and senators referring to the "Davao Mafia" with Duterte as the capo di tutti capi that "gobbled up choice government contracts of all kinds, the bigger, the better, the more profitable - public works, buildings supplies and lately, Covid medicine, equipment and [personal protective equipment]." (Biznews Asia, Aug. 21, 2021.) There are kernels of truth admittedly, but unless this Senate proves the same and someone is eventually accused and found guilty of crime, keep us Davaoeños out of it. I resent the reference to "Davao Mafia"; it is irrelevant, bigoted and unfair. A very small group of possible criminals and plunderers doesn't warrant dragging in the muck and soiling the city and its residents. When Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies were booted out, we never referred to the Ilocanos in a pejorative manner; nor for that matter, citizens from San Juan when Joseph "Erap" Estrada was imprisoned; nor even Pangasinenses when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was falsely accused and "hospital incarcerated." And even former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino 3rd's kamag-anak (relatives) as Tarlaqueños or Manileño mafiosi during his time. I do, however, grudgingly agree that "Covid has been a blessing like manna from the devil himself...the crisis prodded Congress to pass gargantuan expenditure bills disguised as bayanihan (at the expense of the bayan) and without bidding. To scare critics and oppositors, Duterte imposed the severest and longest lockdown in the world. This prohibited mobility, rallies, mass protests, even church gatherings wherein the pulpit could bully the powers that be."

Timelines

To get a better grasp of the universe of the corruption and graft being uncovered in the Senate hearings, we need to establish its antecedents. When Covid-19 struck in early 2020, government rushed in to introduce grandiose-sounding laws - the Bayanihan to Heal As One (and Two) - by granting the President emergency powers to combat Covid with humongous funds. These laws were altogether an appropriate and worthy response. But as in any similar bills, the devil is in the details. It allowed the primary tools for graft: negotiated biddings on contrived bidding failures and sleight-of-hand transfers of funds - with leakage somewhere in between; employing obscure patsies "backed by the powerful." To wit:

– August 2019 Christopher Lao, an obscure lawyer, allegedly Sen. Bong Go's stooge (SBG denied this vehemently) was appointed Department of Budget and Management (DBM) undersecretary.

– Jan. 2, 2020, Undersecretary Lao is transferred to the DBM Procurement Service (PS-DBM). (Secretary Windel Avisado, resigned DBM head, should shed light on this.)

– March 16, 2020, the Government Procurement Policy Board released a resolution incorporating face masks and PPE into common use supplies.

– March 27, 2020, the Department of Health started transferring funds to the PS-DBM, presumably illegally.

– April 16 and 20, 2020, PS-DBM under Lao, bought overpriced surgical masks from various suppliers.

– April 2020 to June 2020, Lao awarded to undercapitalized Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. contracts worth P6 billion plus; the contracts that PS-BDM awarded to Pharmally reached more than P8.7 billion as a result.

– June 2021, Lao resigns. Offices of favored companies closed - addresses unknown.

Possible plunderers

"Those who recommended Usec Lao to PS-DBM, appointed Lao, released a resolution incorporating face masks and face shields into common use supplies, transferred the DoH budget to PS-DBM, awarded contracts to dubious companies and supplied PS-DBM's orders are liable for plunder." (Sen. Frank Drilon, Philippine Star, Aug 30, 2021)

Meantime, the Deegong and the Dick are exchanging accusations using the foulest language.

Next week, Sept. 15, 2021: The Chinese connection
Published in LML Polettiques