During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing, senators brought up the suggested retail price (SPR) set for face masks and other medical items at the height of the pandemic in 2020 which the PS-DBM used as basis for the unit cost in its procurement at the time.

“SRP is one of the basis. In fact the GPPB (Government Procurement Policy Board) issued a resolution that as part of our basis and monitoring of prices when we procure, we base it to DOH’s (Department of Health) previous procurement, the DTI (Department of Trade) SRP and preliminary and market scanning,” Lao explained.

Pangilinan then interjected and pointed out that the SRP should be used as basis when procuring in a retail setting.

“No other than [DOH] Secretary [Francisco] Duque has already manifested when we asked him the basis of purchasing, the SRP is purely retail not wholesale. They (PS-DBM) were buying millions. That’s not retail no matter how you look at it,” the senator said.

At this point, Lao was seen smiling on screen and trying to cover his mouth, which Pangilinan took notice of.

“Are you smirking, Mr. Lao?” the senator asked.

In response, Lao said: “I’m smiling, Mr. Chairman.”

“What is funny? Why is it funny?” Pangilinan was quick to ask.

“I find it humorous, Mr. Chairman that—” Lao tried to explain but was cut off by Pangilinan.

“It is not humorous when you overprice Mr. Lao. It is not humorous when people are dying because of substandard materials particularly,” the senator said.

Lao, who pointed his fingers at the screen, said “people are dying, that’s why we procured it for them.”

But Pangilinan said the items bought by the PS-DBM at the time waere“substandard.”

Lao denied this.

“How do you explain Mr. Lao…half a billion worth of testing kits expired under your watch? It’s not funny. This is not funny, Mr. Lao. I’m done,” Pangilinan said.

Lao was no longer able to make another comment on the matter.

The Senate has been investigating the government’s pandemic purchases last year, including allegedly overpriced face masks, face shields and other supplies.

Lao has insisted that the face masks and shields flagged as “overpriced” were the cheapest they could find at the time they were procured.

During the course of the hearing, senators have been flagging supposed irregularities in the purchases made by the PS-DBM.

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