Folder supplier may get ultraviolet lamp contract
By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – The company that nearly bagged a P689-million contract to supply ballot secrecy folders to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) could end up winning the contract to supply ultraviolet lamps.
OTC Paper Supply submitted the lowest bid of P28 million to supply the lamps that will be used to scan security markings in the ballots, besting two other companies, GMA 7 News reported last night.
Manager Henry Young of OTC Paper said the company might withdraw its bid for the UV lamps if the Comelec would allow it to do so without slapping the company with a fine. He said he had not yet been notified by the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) that his company had won the lamp deal.
The bid for the lamps will have to be approved by the Comelec commissioners. As of yesterday, the commissioners said they had not yet been notified about OTC’s bid.
Young also told GMA 7 that he would insist on the Comelec pushing through with the folder contract, saying he had put nearly P500 million of his assets in hock to fulfill his commitment.
Through a negotiated contract, OTC was initially awarded the deal to provide over 1.8 million ballot secrecy folders made of polypropylene at a cost of P380 each.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo deemed the price “too luxurious and exorbitant” and scrapped the deal.
Young also maintained that his ballot secrecy folders are not expensive, and said they would exhaust “all administrative and legal remedies” to regain the contract, which the Comelec has cancelled.
“We are filing a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec on Friday,” he said.” If nothing happens, we’ll take all administrative and legal remedies. We are very devastated and disappointed because there was nothing irregular in our offer.”
Last Monday, the Comelec cancelled the notice of award to OTC to supply the secrecy folders to be used in the May 10 polls after finding the P380 for each folder “exorbitant.”
OTC has a pending application for patent for the folders before the Intellectual Property Office since Feb. 10, seven days before the Comelec came up with specifications of the folders.
However, Young said he has been conceptualizing the design of the folders since the Comelec held mock elections in various schools last February.
“The folders are made of hard plastic so voters don’t have to worry that their ballots would be crumpled,” he said.
He noticed during the mock polls that the ballots were 25 inches long and were not convenient for voters, he added.
Young said he would fight to the end since they have already spent so much for the project.
“The P34-million bond that we paid is refundable but we already spent a lot for the materials,” he said.
“We can never give up. In the first place, everything was above board. We did nothing irregular.”
BAC might be revamped
The Comelec’s BAC might be reorganized following the controversial approval of a multi-million contract for the purchase of ballot secrecy folders.
“That’s always a possibility,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.
“The BAC is not really a permanent body. Sometimes the composition changes. That’s definitely one of the possibilities.”
The BAC is comprised of Maria Lea Alarkon as chair, with vice chair Allen Francis Abaya and members Maria Norina Tangaro-Casingal, Martin Niedo and Antonio Santella.
Melo has admitted lapses on the part of the commission when they approved the awarding of the folder project to OTC Paper Supply.
Rafanan and two other members of a special panel will conduct an investigation and submit their recommendation within two weeks.
Meanwhile, Jimenez said all other procurements by the Comelec in connection with the May 10 elections are in order and need not be reviewed.
“At this stage, all of the other procurements have not raised any red flag so we can presume that everything has been in order,” he said.
The Comelec is prepared to face possible cases that might be filed by OTC Paper Supply after the Commission discontinued the deal, Jimenez said.
Ballots sent to voters abroad
Official ballots have been mailed to 138,598 Filipino voters in 104 countries for the start of the one-month overseas absentee voting (OAV) on Saturday, according to the Philippine Postal Corp.
Reynaldo Malacapo Jr., Philpost-National Capital Region operations director, said they distributed the 138,598 official ballots two weeks before the deadline.
“We have finished with all the OAVs,” he said.
“The letters were sent to the addresses provided for by the Comelec and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“It is the Comelec who could say if all the voters under the OAV received their ballots.”
Malacapo said their target was to mail all the official ballots by March 10, but that they completed the distribution by the middle of February.
“We worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week and arranged three shifts for work.”
Malacapo said compared to the 2007 senatorial elections, they had more official ballots to mail this year.
Three years ago, the Philpost was tasked to pack and prepare 128,821 official ballots to 43 countries, he added.
Malacapo said while they had less ballots to mail in 2007, it was more time consuming because the Comelec at that time preferred to send the ballots by registered mail, unlike this year, when they used ordinary mail.
Malacapo said the Comelec was charged P7 million for the ordinary mail service.
In 2007, the poll body had to pay P17 million for the registered mail service, he added.
Malacapo said each yellow envelop they had mailed to voters contained the return mailing address, the serial number of the ballot, the instruction to the voters, list of candidates, and the official ballot.
Voters based in other countries would be given a blank official ballot, similar to the ballots used in previous elections, he added.
They would only be asked to vote for the positions of president, vice president, 12 senators and party-list. – With Mayen Jaymalin, Evelyn Macairan