Supplier set to appeal scrapping of folder deal
By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – OTC Paper Supply is set to appeal the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to scrap its contract to supply some P700-million worth of ballot secrecy folders to be used in the May 10 polls.
In a telephone interview, OTC Paper Supply manager Henry Young said that he would file a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec to win back the contract.
“We are preparing our MR now. We cannot easily give this up, especially since everything was done aboveboard,” he maintained.
The Comelec cancelled the awarding of contract to OTC after finding out that the secrecy folders cost P380 each.
Young noted that the materials used in the secrecy folders are durable and that its length is enough to enable voters to fill up their ballots in secret.
“Most of the classrooms are using armchairs and considering the length of the ballots, it would be inconvenient for them to merely fill up the ballots. There is risk that the ballots would be crumpled,” he added.
Asked about the price of the secrecy folders, Young claimed that P380 apiece is still cheap compared to the prevailing price of shorter plastic folders being sold in the market.
“Maybe it is better for the public to judge it themselves. They can check the prices of plastic folders – which are much shorter than ours – being sold in the bookstores,” he maintained.
Ironically, OTC Paper Supply submitted the lowest bid of P28 million for the 80,000 ultraviolet lamps needed for the coming polls.
But Maria Lea Alarkon, chair of the Comelec’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), said this does not mean that OTC would bag the contract.
“It’s not yet over. There is still the post-qualification,” she said in an interview.
Young, however, revealed that he is consulting his lawyers about his plan to withdraw OTC’s bid offer for the UV lamps to avoid more controversy.
“I’m thinking if it is better to withdraw now or I’ll wait for BAC to decide on the winning bidder,” he said.
The other companies that submitted bid offers for the UV lamps are Embu Integrated and Philand Industry.
Alarkon added that they might be able to recommend to the Comelec a possible bid winner on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) called the bidding for the UV lamps flawed.
“As far as I know, the bidding was sort of in haste. Some of the (observers like PPCRV) were informed the day before while others were notified on the day itself,” PPCRV coordinator Arwin Serrano said.
“When I was requested to attend by (PPCRV chair) Ambassador (Henrietta) de Villa, it was already 11 a.m. so I arrived there in the afternoon,” he said in an interview.
“I didn’t see observers from outside the Comelec,” Serrano said. He said there should have been observers from the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit, among others.
Asked about the PPCRV’s allegation, Alarkon said that the UV lamps fall under the category of “emergency procurement” owing to the need to “deploy” the devices to polling precincts across the country at the soonest time possible.
“Under the law, there is no need to advertise (bid notices for) emergency procurement. But despite this, BAC still found it prudent to have it advertised,” Alarkon added.
“We need the UV lamps. They might not be able to deliver the 80,000 units if not through emergency procurement. We made a canvass and we can get only 3,000 in the market, so you really have to enter it in emergency procurement,” she added.
Special task force
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, for her part, ordered the creation of a special task force that would investigate alleged anomalies in the planned acquisition of ballot secrecy folders.
The task forces will launch a probe even if no complaint has been filed.
“The task force will evaluate the procedure conducted by the Bids and Awards Committee of the Comelec, to determine if it is in accord with RA 9184,” she said, referring to the Government Procurement Reform Act.
She said the body would also look into possible violations by Comelec officials of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“What is important is that an impartial investigation will be conducted, where all parties will be given the opportunity to present their side so that those who will be found responsible may be prosecuted, otherwise, they should be cleared of all accusations against them,” she said.
Support for Comelec
With the Comelec under fire, Malacañang said the poll body must be given all the support it needs to make the May 10 polls credible.
“You know the Comelec has to be not only supported, but they have to stay very credible also and what is happening with the procurement, it needs really some fast investigation,” Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said.
He said that the Palace will not interfere in the investigation of the Comelec on the alleged procurement anomalies.
Mendoza said that the Palace believes the Comelec is “doing very well” in handling the controversies.
He declined to comment on the call of some sectors for the resignation of the Comelec officials involved in the alleged scam.
“Let’s just leave it to the Comelec and let’s wait for the completion of their investigation,” he said.
“We continue to support the Comelec and Chairman Melo in its challenging task of delivering credible automated election, which should be everyone’s highest priority,” deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said.
Mendoza also said an apology from Melo regarding the controversy was not enough.
“I think the apology is always welcome but there should be the investigation because there has to be some reasons why they are procuring this kind of a cover because this is new, this is not the usual cover that the Comelec uses in the previous elections,” Mendoza said.
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia III said the National Bureau of Investigation should uncover the anomalous relationship between the Comelec and its “favorite supplier,” OTC.
“The manner OTC is projecting its determination to still bag the folder contract indicates that it has back-channel information that the Comelec will reconsider its junking of the deal for being obviously overpriced. We reiterate our call for the NBI to take an active part in investigating this mess,” De Venecia said. – With Marvin Sy, Michael Punongbayan, Jose Rodel Clapano