Press Release
July 30, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called on investigative and judicial authorities to resist any political pressure and to act decisively in resolving the charges against top officials of the Commission on Elections in connection with the botched P1.3 billion poll modernization contract awarded to the MegaPacific consortium.

Pimentel made the appeal following a decision of the Criminal and Appeals Court of Thailand sentencing three elections commissioners to four-year imprisonment for acting illegally in supervising last Aprils general elections in Thailand that saw Prime Minister Thaksins political party capturing majority of parliamentary seats.

The three Thai elections commissioners Vasana Puemlarp, Prinya Nakchudtree and Virachai Naewhoonnien were accused of favoring Thaksins Thai Rak Party and were asked by King Bhumibol Adulyadej to resign. The April elections were later voided by the courts for being undemocratic and unconstitutional.

Pimentel said the swiftness with which the complaints against the three poll commissioners were decided by the Thai courts is a cause of embarrassment for the judicial process in the Philippines where charges of manipulating the election results and fraudulent election automation deal against Comelec executives remain unresolved more than two years after the May, 2004 polls.

This is both amusing and saddening because we became a democracy long before Thailand did. But we cannot even move regarding this matter of the complicity of the Comelec commissioners in the MegaPacific contract, he said.

Pimentel voiced his dismay over the indecisiveness of the Office of the Ombudsman in investigating the charges against Comelec commissioners led by Chairman Benjamin Abalos for approving the election modernization contract with MegaPacific which was voided by the Supreme Court for legal affirmities.

He said it was very clear that former Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano connived with President Arroyo in rigging the results of the 2004 presidential elections as evidenced by the tell-tale tape recordings of their phone conversations.

Although Garcillano is now facing criminal charges filed by opposition lawmakers and other complainants, Pimentel lamented that the case is hardly moving at the investigation stage, thereby reinforcing the belief that he is untouchable.

The Ombudsman has already recommended the initiation of impeachment proceedings against Commissioner Resurreccion Borra for his role in the fraudulent poll automation deal. But Pimentel questioned why only Borra was recommended for impeachment when the six other Comelec commissioners had approved the tainted contract.

Obviously, he said Borra is being made a scapegoat by the powers-that-be because he candidly admitted during a Senate hearing that massive fraud had marred the last presidential election in many areas in Mindanao, thereby further casting doubts on President Macapagal-Arroyos victory.

Meanwhile, Pimentel lauded the Ombudsmans ruling asserting its authority to investigate Comelec commissioners and rejecting their argument that, as constitutional officials, they do not fall under Ombudsmans jurisdiction.

One of the complainants in the case, Pimentel cited judicial precedents in the Philippines and United States showing that Comelec officials could be investigated and prosecuted by the Ombudsman even before they are impeached.

The Constitution does not say that impeachment must first be resorted to so that erring Comelec commissioners may be subjected to the penalties of the law, he said.

In its ruling, the Ombudsman invoked the Ombudsman Act of 1989 which states:

The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by constitutional officials punishable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted.

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