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Losing Comelec bidder eyes impeach raps vs poll officials

- Jose Aravilla -
The losing bidder in the botched Commission on Elections (Comelec) poll automation project is preparing an impeachment complaint and a criminal case against the poll body’s seven commissioners who approved the anomalous P1.3-billion deal.

Augusto Lagman, former president of the Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP), said they were preparing their documents, but he could not say when they would file the charges.

The Supreme Court, in nullifying earlier this year the Comelec’s contract with Mega Pacific Consortium for the purchase of 1,991 automated counting machines, recommended criminal prosecution of the Comelec commissioners involved in the deal.

The Office of the Solicitor General has since filed a case against Mega Pacific to recover the P1 billion already paid by the government, while the consortium is seeking the payment of the balance of its contract with the poll body.

Lagman said their main concern at the moment is how to raise the "few hundred thousand pesos" they need to hire a lawyer for the criminal case they plan to file. He said since they are busy with their respective professions, they could not be expected to devote all their time to the case.

He said ITFP officials are due to meet this week and the impeachment complaint, which can be pursued even without a regular lawyer, is part of the agenda.

ITFP is the only other bidder in the Comelec’s poll automation deal. But to ITFP’s dismay, Mega Pacific won the contract although the consortium was only formed a few weeks before the bidding. ITFP questioned the deal and was one of the petitioners in a case that paved the way for the Supreme Court to void the contract.

Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, in an earlier interview, remained adamant that the contract with Mega Pacific was the best deal they could get since they lacked time after the release of the budget for the poll automation project was delayed.

The computerization of the elections, envisioned as early as 1995, was again shelved during the May 10 elections because of the last-minute Supreme Court ruling.

Abalos remained sore at the Supreme Court for not listening to their explanation and not summoning impartial computer experts to shed light on the poll automation project.

Despite this setback, Abalos said they will make another attempt at computerization — hopefully in the 2007 congressional and local elections. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is set to hold elections this November, while nationwide barangay elections have been set in October next year.

In its petition before the Supreme Court, the ITFP urged the high tribunal to restrain the Comelec from using the automated counting machines unless it conducts another bidding.

The ITFP said Mega Pacific failed to comply with the standards of the technical requirements as stipulated in the terms of reference.

The petitioner also said the consortium violated the rules on bids and awards of government contracts.

ITFP president Fred Torres said the organization, composed of 20 industry associations, was taking legal action because the Comelec and its officials violated the commission’s own rules in bidding out the contract to supply the machines.

The individuals who signed the petition are Lagman, Corazon Akol, Miguel Uy, Eduardo Lopez, Rex Drilon, Miguel Hilado, Ley Salcedo and Manuel Alcuaz Jr.

Respondents in the petition are Abalos, Comelec bidding and award committee head Eduardo Mejos and members Gideon de Guzman, Jose Balbuena, Lamberto Llamas and Bartolome Sinocruz, along with Mega Pacific officials.

ABALOS

AUGUSTO LAGMAN

AUTONOMOUS REGION

COMELEC

COMELEC CHAIRMAN BENJAMIN ABALOS

CORAZON AKOL

EDUARDO LOPEZ

EDUARDO MEJOS

ITFP

MEGA PACIFIC

SUPREME COURT

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