Press Release
August 10, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) denounced the administration-backed plan to use the 1,991 automated counting machines (ACMs) acquired under a voided, fraudulent contract as nothing but a ploy to allow the elections officials and other culprits to evade prosecution and prevent the government from recovering the money paid for the equipment.

In a privilege speech at the Senate Wednesday, Pimentel said that since the contract that the Commission on Elections awarded to the MegaPacific for supplying the ACMs had been invalidated by the Supreme Court for being tainted with anomalies, then it follows that the fruits of that contract are also invalid.

And therefore, if we are to allow the use of these automated counting machines, we will in effect be providing the defense for the responsible officials who will now say: Look, the government is using these machines, so what are you charging us for? We are no longer liable, he said.

In voiding the MegaPacific contract, the high tribunal held that it was awarded by the Commission on Elections not only in violation of the law and jurisprudence, but also in reckless disregard of its own bidding rules and procedures.

Consequently, the SC ordered 1. the Comelec to return the ACMs to MegaPacific; 2. the Office of the Solicitor General to recover the amount paid to the supplier-contractor and 3. the Office of the Ombudsman to determine the criminal liability of elections officials and private individuals involved in the deal.

When the high court nullified the contract on Jan. 13, 2004, Pimentel said official records showed that Comelec had already paid MegaPacific a total of P1,248,949,088, including P856,914,088 for the ACMs.

He said that the actual cost of the 1,991 units of ACMs was P520,810,158, indicating there was an overprice of P306,104,646.

And yet, Pimentel said Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos lamely explained that they could not return the ACMs because MegaPacific refused to accept them.

For heavens sake, is that enough ground for Comelec to say that we cannot do anything anymore regarding the automated counting machines? And since they are already there, we may as well use them, the senator said.

Pimentel said it is the height of irresponsibility for Malacañang officials to express support for the Comelecs recommendation to use the idle ACMs in the 2007 elections, especially since the Office of the Solicitor General, which is under the supervision of the Office of the President, had been specifically directed by the Supreme Court to take steps to recover the money paid to MegaPacific.

The minority leader argued that the moment the ACMs are allowed to be used in the next elections, the government will be estopped from prosecuting the personalities involved in the botched contract and from recovering the amount paid.

I want to place on record that I vigorously dispute the premises that Mr. Abalos and lawyers of the Comelec officials are foisting upon our people that there is nothing wrong if we now use the automated counting machines that are in the possession of Comelec because it is difficult to return them for the reason that supplier could no longer be found. That would be tantamount to allowing a brazen ripoff of this government with our eyes wide open and allow these people to just sing a song on the way to the bank, Pimentel said.

In his privilege speech, the minority leader also bewailed the orchestrated propaganda campaign being waged to justify the use of the ACMs and persuade the Supreme Court to reverse its decision voiding the MegaPacific deal.

I could sense that there is a mega-press drive prodding our newspapers, radio and television about the need to use the voting machines that were acquired under an invalidated contract. I have issued a number of statements on this matter but they never saw the light of day, he said.

Pimentel requested the proper Senate committee to look into the campaign for the use of the MegaPacific ACMs for the 2007 elections so we can avoid the travesty of justice for our people.

News Latest News Feed