NOTHING TO HIDE. Former Education Secretary Leonor Briones attends a hybrid Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation (Blue Ribbon) Committee inquiry on Thursday (Aug. 25, 2022) on the alleged overpriced and outdated laptops of the Department of Education (DepEd). Briones said the DepEd asked the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management to procure the laptops for them because the PS-DBM specializes in those types of procurements. (Photo courtesy of Senate PRIB)

MANILA – Former Education Secretary Leonor Briones dismissed claims on Thursday that she was in hiding amid allegations of overpriced and outdated laptops procured by the Department of Education (DepEd) under her term through the Procurement Service-Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM).

Briones made the statement in response to questions from members of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by Senator Francis Tolentino.

She pointed out that the DepEd asked the PS-DBM to procure the laptops for them because the latter specializes in "big-time" procurements.

"ADB and Philippine Institute of Development Studies [have] been tracking the record of PS-DBM and this is why we say that we endorsed the project to them," she said.

The former Education chief stressed that while the DepEd has six Bids and Awards Committees (BAC), the PHP2.4 billion worth of procurement needed a huge BAC.

"We calculated that we are already preparing for face-to-face, we may not have the time to really look into the details of the offers of the various suppliers," she said.

Briones insisted that what the DepEd, under her watch, did was legal and has been done by other government agencies for the past decades.

"Yes, we have a BAC. But we don't have a big enough BAC to specialize in a six-month plan to provide computers at a time of a lockdown, at a time when chips were not produced, at a time of Covid-19 and the supply was very limited," she told the senators.

Meanwhile, former Budget Undersecretary and former PS-DBM head Lloyd Christopher Lao said that the demand and prices of laptops increased during the lockdown and almost everyone was working at home.

"When we conducted a market survey on March [2020], yan daw yung reason na tumaas. On June 2020, we really awarded in favor of DepEd, PHP32,000 pesos laptop at (and) Intel Core i5 na po (already). That's the fact," Lao told senators.

In its 2021 report, the Commission on Audit sought an explanation from the DepEd for buying PHP2.4 billion worth of “pricey” and “outdated” laptops for teachers. (PNA)