Comelec: No reason to cancel deal with Uy-linked firm

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Comelec: No reason to cancel deal with Uy-linked firm
This Feb. 4, 2021 photo shows voter registration at the Comelec office in Quezon City.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Despite public criticisms, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not see any valid reason to cancel its contract with F2 Logistics Philippines Inc., which is linked to businessman Dennis Uy, a major contributor to President Duterte’s presidential campaign in 2016.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said “suggestions being floated now” are not valid grounds for the poll body to rescind the contract with F2 Logistics. He said only a violation by the trucking company can make the Comelec cancel the deal.

“There has to be a valid reason for a rescission of the contract. There would have to be some sort of violation by F2, or a change in circumstances, all of a sudden hindi na kailangan ng Comelec ‘yung kontrata. I suppose a case can be made for rescission then,” Jimenez said.

“But in terms of what’s being floated now, in terms of suggestions being made, again that would not be grounds for recession,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec and F2 Logistics signed a P536-million deal for the distribution of election materials and other supplies, including the delivery of 97,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs) that will be used in the May 2022 national and local elections.

Jimenez issued the statement after Gus Lagman, former Comelec commissioner and chair of poll watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), urged the poll body to cancel its deal with the F2 Logistics, saying it would undermine the integrity of the 2022 polls.

Lagman said the Comelec should have declared a failed bidding and invited other service providers to participate in the bidding for the distribution of the election materials.

He said there have been doubts on the services of the F2 Logistics being linked to Duterte.

“It can undermine the elections because the one that’s going to deliver the materials is a major contributor of one of the political parties. What if they change the contents in the delivery trucks? It’s dangerous, they should have given it to another supplier, service provider,” Lagman said.

“If I were the Comelec, I would consider it a failed bidding and invite other service providers to participate. If I had my way, that’s what I would have to do,” he added.

Asked if the public could contest the Comelec’s decision, Lagman said the losing bidders have the right to question the contract.

The public should be vigilant on the services of the F2 Logistics in the upcoming elections, he said.

Jimenez defended the poll body’s decision, saying there is no conflict of interest in awarding the contract to F2 Logistics.

“The question of conflict of interest was looked at. The bids and awards committee really checked that and it was found that there was really no ground to say there was a conflict of interest,” he said.

Why couldn’t it be given to another bidder?

“Because our laws are very strict. You have a public bidding, there are rules that you abide by and if you have the lowest responsive bid that’s where you award to, and that’s what happened here. F2 Logistics offered the lowest responsive bid. Therefore, it qualified ao the contract was awarded to them,” he added.

Jimenez said the delivery of election materials does not translate to any impact on the election results since the delivery would be done ahead of election day and the machines will undergo a final testing and sealing to ensure that those are working properly on the election day.

He said the VCMs would print out a zero-report to prove that there are no programmed results in the machines’ memory. All the checking of materials will be witnessed and closely monitored by Comelec representatives.

Another poll watchdog Kontra Daya reiterated Namfrel’s stand on the issue.

The watchdog said the contract would cast doubt on the credibility of the 2022 elections and should therefore be cancelled.

“Just because it’s legal doesn’t make it right. No matter how you look at it, there is impropriety when the company of a major campaign contributor of a sitting President becomes in charge of the warehousing, delivery and storage of election paraphernalia,” Kontra Daya convenor Danilo Arao said.

“This further puts into question the credibility of the Comelec in particular and the elections in general,” he said.

Uy, who is from Davao City, is said to be the the fourth largest donor to Duterte’s campaign during the 2016 presidential elections. – Rhodina Villanueva

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