Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In Support of Senate Report No. 44 - Abalos, et al Must Resign

The undersigned Information Technology Foundation of the Philippines (ITFP) and individuals (IT practitioners), including those who filed the case in the Supreme Court in August, 2003, causing the eventual nullification of the contract signed by the COMELEC with Mega Pacific eSolutions, Inc., strongly support Senate Report No. 44 of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommending that all COMELEC Commissioners involved in the “COMELEC modernization scam”, resign.

The COMELEC committed many sins against the Filipino people. In the bidding for Automated Counting Machines (ACMs):

n The bid specs asked for 3 years Financial Statements; but the winning bidder was only incorporated 11 days before the submission of bids; the COMELEC therefore awarded the contract for ACMs to an unqualified bidder.

n The bidder claimed they were a consortium and therefore carried the track record and financial performance of the consortium members; but considering that it was a P1.3 billion project, all they had was a verbal agreement among them!

n The bid specs asked for 99.9995% accuracy level (1 mistake in 200,000); both bidders failed. Then the COMELEC reduced that to 99.995% in midstream (1 mistake in 20,000). Changing the bid specs at the middle of the evaluation is in violation of procurement rules. In spite of this change in specs, both bidders failed!

n The Bid and Awards Committee (BAC) should have declared a failed bidding right there and then, but no! they went on and awarded the contract to Mega Pacific.

n What’s more, the COMELEC en banc awarded the contract on April 15, 2003before they even received the written report from the BAC, which was only submitted to them on April 21, 2003. This clearly violates procurement rules.

Mr. Abalos cannot claim that they only made an honest mistake in awarding the contract. In May, 2003, the ITFP sent a letter to the COMELEC recommending that they declare a failed bidding, but such recommendation was ignored. This was what prompted the ITFP and eight individuals, none of whom was a bidder, to file a Petition with the Supreme Court in August, 2003, for the nullification of the contract.

On January 13, 2004, the Supreme Court released its decision nullifying the contract and directing the Office of the Solicitor-General to exert all efforts to recover the money and the Ombudsman to “determine the criminal liability, if any, of the public officials (and conspiring private individuals, if any)” involved in the subject contract.

It has been almost two years since the Supreme Court handed down its decision, yet nothing much has happened. The COMELEC Commissioners and the members of the BAC continue to collect salaries; the COMELEC has not returned the equipment to the suppliers and has not recovered what they paid; and to add insult to injury, they continue to spend millions renting space to warehouse the equipment!

The Ombudsman has yet to elevate the case to the Sandiganbayan; and Congress has yet to initiate impeachment proceedings against the Commissioners. Unless these Commissioners are replaced, we can forget about clean and honest elections, as well as, election automation, in 2007.

Unknown to the general public, these COMELEC Commissioners committed other major sins:

n They suspended the continuous registration in January, 2003, in violation of the law (R.A. 8189) and to the disadvantage of new voters.

n They mis-allocated P1 billion meant for ACMs, to purchase data capturing machines for use in validating voters’ registration, a project that could not be completed in May, 2004, thus violating a Supreme Court ruling.

n They deceived voters by telling them that they should validate their registration, otherwise they would be put in a “watch list”.

n They mis-allocated another P300 million, meant for the purchase of ACMs, for their own illegal quick count (something that NAMFREL does for free). The Supreme Court stopped them, anyway. But they have already disbursed the P300 million by then!

In all, the COMELEC Commissioners wasted approximately P2.6 billion of taxpayer money. Perhaps erring officials of the COMELEC can only be removed through impeachment; but they can RESIGN! They should RESIGN!

That’s the only decent thing for them to do.

Corruption thrives in our country because we allow it. Corruption thrives in our country because we do not punish the criminals.

Signed on December 19, 2005, by

Amado Malacaman, Jr.
Information Technology Foundation of the

Maricor Akol
Augusto Lagman
Cynthia Mamon
Miguel Uy
Manuel Alcuaz
Rex Drilon II
Miguel Hilado
Ley Salcedo
Edu Lopez
Winston Chan

No comments: