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DOJ issues ILBO vs Lao, 7 others; 9th order against Yang expected

(Photo from DOJ website)

THE Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) on former Department of Budget and Management’s Procurement Service (DBM-PS) Officer in Charge Lloyd Christopher Lao and seven others, in connection with the ongoing Senate inquiry into multibillion-peso personal protective equipment (PPE) procurements, and a ninth ILBO was expected to be issued against former presidential adviser Michael Yang.

Yang was the subject of a separate request given to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Tuesday morning in a letter by Blue Ribbon Chairman Richard J. Gordon.

Aside from Lao, also covered by the ILBO were lawyer Warren Rex Liong and Pharmally officials identified as Twinkle Dargani, Huang Tzy Yen, Krizle Grace Mago, Justine Garado, Linconn Ong and Mohit Dargani.

Liong, former legal consultant of President Duterte, is currently the Overall Deputy Ombudsman after being appointed by the latter in November 2020.

Secretary Guevarra also said he has received the letter of Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, requesting the DOJ to issue an ILBO on Yang, who is also under investigation by the Senate for allegedly brokering an P8-billion deal between the government and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. for the delivery of Covid-19 supplies PPEs, face shields and face masks last year.

Guevarra said an ILBO would be issued against Yang on Tuesday.

“I have earlier released an ILBO addressed to the BI [Bureau of Immigration] covering the persons of Messrs. Lloyd Christopher Lao and seven others, as requested by Senate President [Vicente ‘Tito’] Sotto III,” Guevarra said.

The DOJ, however, reiterated that an ILBO is merely for monitoring and not a hold departure order (HDO), which would prevent the subject persons from leaving the country.

“It should be noted, however, that an ILBO is for monitoring purposes only, and it is not, in and of itself, a sufficient prohibition for a subject’s departure from the Philippines,” Guevarra pointed out.

As for those who are already out of the country prior to the issuance of the ILBO, Guevarra said, “The BI will make proper arrangements for monitoring the subject’s travel movements abroad.”

The issuance of the ILBO against Yang, Lao and the other individuals are in connection with the ongoing investigation of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the 2020 Commission on Audit (COA) Report and other issues related to budget utilization of the Department of Health (DOH), particularly in the fight against Covid-19; inquiry into the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines by local government units and the private sector; payment claims between PhilHealth and private hospitals; and on the privilege speech of Sen. Risa Hontiveros entitled “Mandate of the COA/Incompetence of the DOH.”

The DOJ found the “gravity” of the subject of investigation in aid of legislation sufficient to warrant the issuance of an ILBO on the persons under investigation.

“In view of the gravity of the matters subject of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, ‘as the issue involved is of national interest, and considering the possibility that the aforenamed individuals, may attempt to place themselves beyond the reach of the legal processes by leaving the country, this department deems the issuance of an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order against them prudent in order to monitor the itineraries of their travel and/or their whereabouts, should they attempt to leave the country,” the order read.

The possibility of Yang’s fleeing the country emerged after the businessman, whom President Duterte called his friend, skipped Monday’s sixth Blue Ribbon hearing on the COA 2020 Report on “deficiencies” in the DOH management of over P62 billion in pandemic response funds last year.

Yang had earlier evaded two subpoenas from the Senate, but attended the September 10 hearing virtually from Davao.  However, after senators affirmed a contempt citation on him late Friday for giving “evasive” answers as he distanced himself from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp., Yang called in sick for Monday’s hearing, as conveyed through lawyer Raymond Fortun.

Yang told senators his only role in Pharmally was in introducing them to four Chinese suppliers for personal protective equipment, but testimony by Pharmally director Lincoln Ong showed he had “lent” the startup firm an unspecified amount so it can deliver on multibillion-peso supply contracts.

On Monday, Gordon estimated that in all, Yang was named as having lent funds of nearly P5.7 billion to Pharmally, a low-capital and newly incorporated firm that got the biggest share of PPE contracts from the P42 billion in DOH funds transferred to the Procurement Service of DBM.

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