Bidding aboveboard, says Comelec official
By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez Monday came to the defense of the poll body’s executive director, Jose Tolentino, who is accused of purchasing expensive folders two years ago despite an order to postpone the bidding process.
No order was defied, said Jimenez, since the 2008 directive that barred Tolentino from holding the bidding for the purchase of voter registration record (VRR) binders and plastic fillers had been lifted before the actual bidding took place.
The bidding was won by OTC Paper Supply.
Earlier, Comelec lawyer Melchor Magdamo, in an affidavit, alleged that Tolentino had disobeyed an order of the Comelec en banc (as a whole) and proceeded with the bidding.
The folder contract with OTC was later scrapped after it was revealed that the folders were “extravagantly” priced at P380 each.
The poll body is now investigating the circumstances surrounding its decision to buy the folders. OTC has contested the decision.
“What I remember is that the directive to hold the bidding in abeyance referred to [in the affidavit of Magdamo] was lifted by another resolution. What I understand was it was lifted by another resolution, so (Tolentino) went ahead with the bidding,” Jimenez told reporters.
He said the omission of this detail in Magdamo’s affidavit “speaks of the intent of the sworn statement.”
“Without that crucial element, it appears that there was something wrong committed. But if you include that, it is clear that there was no wrongdoing. So the intent is obviously to pin down a person,” he said.
Sought for comment, Magdamo maintained that as far as he knew, the request to go ahead with the bidding for the VRR binders and plastic fillers was not lifted and was turned down twice.
He also said that he found it “fishy” that there had been a resolution lifting the order to postpone the bidding, since the request to pursue the bidding was rejected twice.
He said his intent in issuing the affidavit was to pin down Tolentino for his actions. He said he talked about the 2008 bidding in his affidavit because he had personal knowledge of it.
Magdamo’s affidavit was submitted to a Comelec panel investigating the ballot secrecy folder deal.
Magdamo, who is detailed with the office of Comelec Chair Jose Melo, said in an earlier interview that he was warned of the existence of a syndicate in the poll body and had chosen to lie low in the meantime because he was concerned for his safety.
In his affidavit, he said that then acting Comelec Chair Romeo Brawner had directed Tolentino to hold the bidding for the folders and binders until after the poll body’s finance services department (FSD) had presented a report on the Comelec’s financial standing.
As far as he knew, he said, two requests to continue with the bidding were turned down and the body en banc was scheduled to hear a presentation of the FSD report on May 14, 2008. But Magdamo, Tolentino said, went ahead with the bidding on May 12.