Comelec commissioners urged to quit

A GROUP of election watchdogs demanded the resignation of Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes and his six fellow commissioners for failing to end corruption in the poll body, citing the case of voting machine supplier Smartmatic and its alleged inaction on campaign overspending.

Forming a coalition they called End Comelec Greed, the National Transformation Council and the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections made the demand in a protest rally they staged at the Plaza Roma in Intramuros, Manila.

Protest. Protesters demonstrate in front of the Commission on
Elections’ main office in Intramuros, Manila, to urge it to decide on
all cases of election overspending and to end its contract with
Smartmatic. Sonny Espiritu
But supporters of Smartmatic also weighed in on the issue and expressed serious concern on the qualifications of Smartmatic’s opponent in the bidding for the P2-billion lease of 23,000 additional Optical Mark Readers for next year’s elections.

Paranaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting asked the authorities, including the Comelec and the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, to look into reports that the Indra Sistemas allegedly violated several preconditions in the Philippine procurement law.

The OMR contract is one of several that is still pending just days before the scheduled retirement of Brillantes and Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph on February 2.

But the End Comelec Greed coalition demanded that the entire commission resign even before the retirement of the three commissioners because of the issues of corruption at the poll body.

ECG spokesman and lawyer Melchor Magdamo, a former Comelec employee, claimed that aside from the Smartmatic contracts the poll body also ignored the findings of its own campaign finance unit (CFU) that about 80 percent of all elective officials violated the law against over-spending in 2013.

“The draft decision on imposing those verdict is just there sitting doing nothing, it just needs signatures and it has been deliberately delayed by the Comelec,” Magdamo said at the sideline of their rally in front of the Comelec building on Tuesday.

“Those are simple cases and you only need the calculator,” Magdamo said. “In fact the draft decision is already ready. The decision are just templates, you just have to compute how much this person must spend and how much he overspent and you’re done. That’s it,” Magdamo said.

Magdamo said the Comelec is sitting on the decision because it will affect 80 percent of elective officials and yet the poll body only disqualified Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito for overspending P23.5-million.

“Imagine, if they impose these 80 percent verdict, our government will be wiped-out. Only 20 percent will remain, we will have no government actually,” he said.

Magdamo claimed that all senators who ran in 2013 elections allegedly overspent in their campaign while 80 percent of congressmen can also similarly be disqualified.

Magdamo also claimed Brillantes purportedly lied during a hearing of the joint congressional oversight committee on automated elections that is investigating allegations of irregularities in the use of Smartmatic’s precint count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Magdamo said Brillantes lied when he claimed that he and  two other commissioners have stayed out of the deliberations on the contract to renew the services of Smartmatic.

“For the record, hindi na ho kami sumasali sa deliberations. Sa steering committee na. Silang apat. Kaming tatlo, medyo matatanda na kaunti. Hindi na kami sumasali.

“For the record, we don’t participate in deliberations anymore,” Brillantes was quoted as having told the congressional panel. “It’s all in the steering committee. The four of them. We three are quite old already. We don’t participate anymore.”

But Magdamo, a former Comelec lawyer, said Brillantes’ lied at the committee hearing and that “is very clear in the minutes of the JCOC meeting.”

“How can he say he was not participating anymore when the resolution showed he actively took part in the act of practically gifting Smartmatic with the entire P2-billion project package before Christmas?” Magdamo said.

Magdamo said Resolution 9922 of the Comelec en banc clearly showed that Brillantes lied about not participating anymore in deliberations on the PCOS machines and Smartmatic.

The resolution, promulgated with secrecy on December 23, approved by a 5-2 vote the extended warranty agreement between Smartmatic and the Comelec for a P300 million diagnostic inspection of 82,000 PCOS machines.

Brillantes, along with outgoing Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, voted in favor of the negotiated contract along with Christian Lim and Al Parreno. Commissioners Arthur Lim and Louie Tito Guia voted against the deal.

The Comelec action was widely assailed by watchdog groups, IT experts, Church and religious leaders, non government organizations, civic groups, and people’s organizations for being a suspicious “midnight deal” between the poll body and reseller Smartmatic.

Magdamo asked Senator Aquilino Pimentel III and Rep. Senen Sarmiento, co-chairs of the joint congressional committee, to cite Brillantes in contempt.

But instead of investigating Magdamon’s allegations, Paranaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting asked instead for a probe of Smartmatic’s opponent Indra Sistemas.

Tambunting said authorities should ensure that Indra Sistemas meet the entire requirements to qualify in the public bidding. – With Vito Barcelo and Maricel V. Cruz

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