Evidence in poll exec's graft case challenged

Evidence in poll exec’s graft case challenged

MANILA, Philippines – Government prosecutors have objected to the admission into the record of several documentary evidence in the graft case filed against former poll commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco in connection with the P6.59 billion Voters Registration and Identification System (VRIS) project of 2000.

In a 12-page comment, Prosecution Bureau I acting director Raymundo Julio A. Olaguer and assistant special prosecutor III Julieta Zinnia A. Niduaza and Judith Antonina R. Boco-Mate challenged the admissibility of Tancangco’s evidence on the grounds of failure to identify them during trial and for being immaterial and irrelevant.

Tancangco, former head of the Comelec’s bidding and awards committee, is accused of favoring Photokina Marketing Corp. in the bidding for the P6.59 billion VRIS project.

The case stemmed from the complaint initiated by the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which accused Tancangco of diverting the commission’s priority from the automation of the counting process to the registration of voters.

Among the documents questioned by prosecutors were Tancangco’s article on the modernization of the Philippine electoral system; excerpts of the minutes of Comelec meetings in 1998; a Senate report on the pilot-testing of the computerized system during the ARMM elections in 1996; various memoranda among Comelec commissioners; a letter from the Commission on Audit regarding the validity of the VRIS project; a copy of the evaluation report on three bidders for the VRIS project; and a copy of the notice of award to Photokina for the VRIS contract.

The prosecution said, Tancangco’s position paper was instrumental in convincing the Comelec to ‘reorganize its automation priorities so that registration ranked first, hence the fixation on the VRIS project; canvassing ranked second; and counting, only third, thereby preventing Comelec to automate counting in time for the May 2001 election’ in violation of the requirements set under RA 8436 in 1997.

Graft investigators from the Office of the Ombudsman likewise said the VRIS project was ‘overly complicated’ which was supposed to include features of a ‘smart card’ like biometrcs, embedded fingerprints and other data of the ID owner which allegedly caused the project cost to balloon to P6.59 billion although the Comelec only had an approved budget of P1.2 billion for the automation project.

“In short, the VRIS costs P1,900 per ID. In contrast, the Social Security System has established a similar ID system at a much lower cost of US$1 per ID (about P50),” the prosecutors said.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.