Abalos: P1.7 million car purchase legal
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - September 30, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos has maintained that the poll body’s purchase of service vehicles in 2003 amounting to P1.7 million was aboveboard, contrary to the Office of the Ombudsman’s allegation.

In a statement sent to The STAR, Abalos, through his lawyer Jerusha Villanueva, said the Comelec’s purchase of two Toyota Revo VX200s went through proper procedure, including the canvassing of the most advantageous price as well as consultation with head of the requesting party, the Comelec’s Finance Services Division (FSD).

Abalos’ camp specifically disputed the allegation of the ombudsman’s prosecution team that he approved the purchase order even before the Comelec en banc passed a resolution granting the FSD’s request for service vehicles.

The purchase is the subject of a pending graft case against Abalos filed by the ombudsman at the Sandiganbayan in October 2016.

The ombudsman alleged that the purchase was done without public bidding but rather through unauthorized small-value procurement also referred as “shopping.”

The ombudsman said Abalos gave “unwarranted benefit” to the supplier Toyota Pasong Tamo Inc. while depriving the government the opportunity to obtain the vehicles at the most advantageous price.

In a resolution dated Sept. 11, the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division denied Abalos’ motion to file a demurrer to evidence, which would have allowed him to seek the dismissal of the case halfway through the trial without having the need to present his counter-exhibits.

The court said the totality of the documentary and testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution “is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt” if unrebutted by Abalos.

Villanueva said Abalos has filed a motion for reconsideration on the ruling.

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