Resurreccion Borra

Abalos, 10 others charged with graft for 2008 polls

Abalos, 10 others charged with graft for 2008 polls
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Former elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and 10 other officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) were charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday in connection with the procurement of election forms for the 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Reached by The STAR, Abalos denied having any involvement in the allegedly anomalous transaction since he was no longer with the Comelec when it took place.

Abalos resigned as chairman in October 2007, five months before the supposed bidding process was undertaken.

“Definitely, I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

Five members of the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM) accused Abalos and the poll officials of entering into an anomalous transaction for the procurement of election forms and supplies for the 2008 elections in the ARMM.

The complainants said bloated prices approved by Comelec commissioners and members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) caused the government to lose P8.5 million.

Among those charged for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were Commissioners Jose Armando Melo, Nicodemo Ferrer, Rene Sarmiento, Moslemen Macarambon Sr., Lucenito Tagle and Resurreccion Borra.

BAC members Jose Tolentino Jr., Thaddeus P. Hernan, James Arthur Jimenez, and Ma. Norina Tangarao-Casingal were also named respondents.

Lawyer Harry Roque and the CCM members said the Comelec officials committed graft in causing undue injury to Advance Paper Corp. and the government by giving undue advantage to three other private firms who lost the bidding process for a procurement contract on March 24, 2008.

Apart from giving unwarranted benefits to the losing bidders, graft was also committed when the poll body entered into a procurement contract that was allegedly “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government,” according to the complainants.

The complaint said Advance Paper Corp. won the public bidding for “Forms and Supplies for the Resumption of the Continuing Registration of Voters” in the ARMM after giving the lowest and most advantageous bids for five specific items or forms.

However, after the process, the Comelec disqualified the firm for allegedly being a sister-company of Advance Computer Forms Inc., a blacklisted company.

The only trivial basis for the accusation was that the companies shared the name “Advance,” the complaint added.

On March 25, 2008, Advance Paper Corp. filed a motion for reconsideration with the Comelec BAC to show that based on corporate documents, the two companies had different stockholders, and that they were not subsidiaries or affiliates of each other.

Despite the evidence presented, the poll body, three days later, issued Notices of Award (NOA) in favor of losing bidders Forms International Enterprise Corp.; Philand Industries, Inc., and Consolidated Paper Products, Inc. “instead of resolving Advance Paper Corporation’s motion for reconsideration.”

Roque and the CCM members said the awarding of the procurement contracts for supplies to the three other firms resulted in bloated prices and the loss of more than P8.5 million to the government.

“From the foregoing, it could be seen that the Comelec BAC caused undue injuries to Advance Paper Corporation and to the government by first, unjustifiably disqualifying this corporation by merely alleging that it was related to a blacklisted company. The unfounded and whimsical decision of the Comelec BAC denied the government of a cost-effective bid for election documents offered by Advance Paper Corporation,” read the complaint.

“Second, the Comelec BAC, with manifest partiality and evident bad faith as shown by the unexplainable indifference to Advance Paper Corporation’s pending motion for reconsideration, awarded overpriced procurement contracts to losing bidders who gained unwarranted benefits, advantages and preferences causing undue injuries to Advance Paper Corporation and to the government.”

Comelec urged to purge BAC

The Comelec was urged yesterday to purge its ranks in the wake of mounting controversies on the conduct of the elections on May 10.

Lakas-Kampi-CMD senatorial candidate Raul Lambino said the poll body must examine and discontinue questionable deals made by members of the BAC.

“This is already a question about the integrity of the Comelec,” he said.

“The public might doubt the Comelec every time it procures something. It could also be flooded with accusations of poll cheating after the election period because of this latest scam.”

Lambino said it is not too late for the Comelec to implement corrective measures to win back the trust and confidence of the people.

“One of them is to effect a reshuffle of its BAC members and relieve all its officials implicated in the ballot secrecy folder scam,” he said. – Michael Punongbayan, Jaime Laude