Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said he has no misgiving that he will act on calls to probe the alleged “pricey but outdated” P2.4 billion laptops purchased by the government.
Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Sen. Francis Tolentino has remained mum on the issue.
Cayetano however said he believes that Tolentino is very capable to handle the investigation. “I have full faith in Tolentino,” said Cayetano, who has once aspired to head the said committee.
However, Cayetano also acknowledged that each (Senate committee) chair has his own rules and his style.
“I don’t want to pre-empt him. But he can hear this first (laptop controversy), said the former House Speaker, adding that this is a “very good first case” to take for the BRC.”
“Why? Because it’s simple. If there are anomalies, we can hold someone accountable to show the public we will not let this pass. But if we do not probe it, other corrupt officials will have the courage to commit the same erroneous acts,” he said.
He divulged being baffled about the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) becoming a “favorite” to make purchases even for government agencies like the Department of Health (DOH) and now the Department of Education (DepEd).
“Before the head of the PS-DBM (Christopher Lloyd Lao), I was watching the Pharmally hearings. During the time of the late President Aquino, PS-DBM was winning awards. They were very good, but the purpose of PS-DBM was to make biddings for small municipalities, hospitals, etc.,” Cayetano said, adding that the PS-DBM also consolidates biddings for the procurement. “But I don’t know why everything was passed to PS-DBM.”
Cayetano wants to know in the investigation who issued the order and what happened. “There are more questions to answer,” he added. He maintained that former President Rodrigo Duterte, under whose administration the laptop purchase was made—has no links in the procurement.
In his experience, Cayetano said Duterte does not get himself involved.
The call for an investigation stemmed from the annual report of the Commission on Audit (COA), flagging DepEd for purchasing the P2.4 billion worth of laptops through the PS-DBM in 2021 when there are cheaper and better options in the market.
COA also said the purchase of the more expensive laptops resulted in the procurement of fewer units. This deprived more than 28,000 teachers of the benefit.
Cayetano questioned why the laptops were seemingly priced beyond their specifications, adding the units procured had slow, entry-level processors.
He also said the procurement of the laptops happened nine months after the budget for their purchase was approved under the Bayanihan II pandemic relief bill.
He added that the funds for the purchase were already available by September 2020, but the laptops were only bought around nine months later in June 2021 and distributed to public school teachers in August that year, he added.
Asked if DepEd is off the hook, the lawmaker said there are “too many questions” for the department.
“Why is the procurement too slow? Why did you not bid it? Did you provide the specifications? Why did you accept it? We have only known it because of the COA report when it should be the DepEd to raise an alarm on it,” he said.
Cayetano further said it is a “necessity” to summon Lao to the legislative hearings.