Press Release
August 5, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today debunked the claim of Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos that he and other Comelec commissioners should not be held accountable for the P1.3 billion poll automation contract despite the fact that it was voided by the Supreme Court for being tainted with anomalies.

Pimentel said Abalos could not use for his defense his interpretation of the SCs decision that there was no imputation of criminal liability on the part of the commissioners and other Comelec officials in awarding the contract to MegaPacific.

Chairman Abalos does not seem to understand the Supreme Court decision. The decision says that the Comelec bidding process that resulted in the MegaPacific contract was tainted, he said.

Not only that, since the contract violated the rules on bidding, the contract was null and void. If the contract was tainted and null and void, it cannot be used as basis for saying that therefore everything was in order.

Pimentel said that the high tribunal not only nullified the contract, but also ordered the Solicitor General to recover the amount paid to MegaPacific for the purchase of 1,991 automated counting machines (ACMs) after finding out that the winning bidder did not comply with all the technical specifications set by Comelec for such equipment.

He pointed out that the Supreme Court referred the case to the Office of the Ombudsman precisely to determine any possible criminal liability of the Comelec officials, as well as private individuals involved in the deal.

Pimentel also disputed Chairman Abalos argument that then Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr., in his dissenting opinion on the case, did not find any indication that graft and corruption attended the bidding process and awarding of the computerization contract to MegaPacific.

Chairman Abalos cannot escape liability by relying on the alleged dissenting opinion of Davide. A dissenting opinion is just that a dissenting opinion. What is binding is that the Supreme Court, in an overwhelming vote, described the Comelec MegaPacific deal as anomalous and had ordered the Ombudsman to investigate the liabilities of the commissioners on the matter, he explained.

The minority leader said even the Ombudsman has come up with a similar conclusion that the MegaPacific fell short of the qualifications set by Comelec and the ACMs it supplied suffered from technical failure. But he said he did not agree with the Ombudsmans initial recommendation that singled out Commissioner Resurreccion Borra should be subjected to impeachment proceedings.

Who else should answer for it, but Chairman Abalos et al? Not Borra alone, but all the Comelec commissioners who approved the tainted contract and those who acted to secure the counting machines from Korea, including the commissioner who alleged that he should not be included because he did not sign the contract but who, at the time of the contract signing, was in Korea contacting Korean counting machine dealers, Pimentel said.

He reiterated his objection to the Comelec plan, which was endorsed by Malacañang , to use the automated counting machines that were supplied by MegaPacific under the botched contract for future elections.

To do so would give the Comelec commissioners a way out of their complicity in the anomalous contract, Pimentel said.

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