Press Release
January 14, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) said today the poll automation program of the Commission on Elections will remain in limbo as long as Chairman Benjamin Abalos and his fellow commissioners cling to their office despite having lost the confidence of the Senate and the public over the bungling of the 2004 presidential election.

Pimentel rejected Abalos appeal to Congress to pass a new election modernization law that will require the national government to allocate at least P1 billion for the purchase of automated vote counting machines to be used in the next elections and plebiscite for amendments to the Constitution.

He stressed that Abalos and company must resign first before Congress can consider the approval of the poll modernization program. He said they should be held liable for the approval of the fraudulent P1.3 billion poll automation contract which was voided by the Supreme Court.

In my view, all the top Comelec officials who were responsible for the tainted automation deal should be jailed first before we can talk of a new election modernization law, the minority leader said.

Rebuking Abalos and other Comelec officials for being insensitive to the public clamor for their mass resignation, Pimentel said even lackeys of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the rubber stamp Consultative Commission are convinced that no clean and credible electoral exercises are possible as long as there is no revamp of Comelec. In a published manifesto, top Con-Com officials justified their recommendation to cancel the 2007 elections on the ground that the mechanism for credible elections may not yet be in place by that time.

Pimentel said part of the ploy of Abalos and company to get themselves off the hook is to press hard for the implementation of the poll modernization program and to seek the approval of Congress and the high tribunal of their proposal to allow the Comelec to use the idle 1,961 automated counting machines in the coming elections despite findings by information technology experts that they were technically defective.

They want the counting machines to be used in the hope that if that happens, there will be no more basis to pursue the graft charges against them which I filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, he said.

Pimentel said Chairman Abalos is beginning to sound like a broken record for insisting on the use of the flawed and obsolete counting machines even after being repeatedly rebuffed by the Supreme Court over the proposal.

He said the claim of Abalos and other election commissioners that the poll automation contract was above-board does not carry any weight before the bar of public opinion and should not be invoked to justify their continued defiance of the Senates recommendation and public sentiment for their mass exit from the poll body.

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