Press Release
March 28, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged the Office of the Ombudsman to finally decide on the graft charges against commissioners and other officials of the Commission on Elections who approved or facilitated the P1.3 billion computerization deal which was voided by the Supreme Court for legal and technical infirmities and for being inimical to government interest.

Pimentel said that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez should stop sitting on the case since as early as October, 2004, the Ombudsmans Legal, Monitoring and Prosecution Division had found prima facie evidence to charge the respondent Comelec executives and private parties involved in the automation project for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).

He said the Ombudsman can proceed with the criminal prosecution of four Comelec commissioners who have already retired.

Four of the seven Comelec members who signed the P1.3 billion computerization contract with MegaPacific which included the purchase of 1,961 automated counting machines valued at P900 million have retired.

I call upon Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to charge them criminally for their involvement in the anomalous Comelec modernization project, Pimentel said.

He said that since the four have already bowed out of the public service, they have ceased to enjoy immunity from criminal prosecution, a privilege enjoyed by incumbent constitutional officials.

Pimentel, said that the Supreme Court in January, 2004 declared the Comelec-MegaPacific contract null and void and ordered the Ombudsman to determine the criminal liability, if any, of the public officials (and conspiring private individuals, if any) involved in the resolution of the contract. The high tribunal also ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to recover the money paid to MegaPacific.

The minority leader said he had been reliably informed that then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo had promised to sign the resolution on the poll automation deal shortly before he resigned effective Nov. 30, 2005.

Pimentel was the first individual to file a complaint against the Commissioners on the voided Comelec modernization project.

Pimentel said the Ombudsmans continued dilly-dallying on the case could not be justified under the present circumstances and considering the mandate of the Ombudsman and her deputies as protectors of the people, to act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials.

He said it is irresponsible for the graft-busting authorities to ignore the findings of the Ombudsmans Legal, Monitoring and Prosecution Division that the Comelec-MegaPacific contract was grossly disadvantageous to the government.

Pimentel said the Ombudsman investigators also discovered that the automated counting machines bought from South Korea were grossly overpriced. This was affirmed by former Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo in a Senate public hearing.

He said the Ombudsmans issuance of a resolution on the case would also pave the way for the filing of graft charges the chairman and members of the Comelecs Pre-Qualification, Bidding and Awards Committee, who evaluated and endorsed the approval of the contract and the incorporators of MegaPacific led by company president Willy Yu.

Such resolution, according to Pimentel, can likewise be used as a ground for filing of impeachment complaint against incumbent Comelec Commissioners led by Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

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