Press Release
January 24, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today expressed dismay over the governments failure to recover the P1.3 billion payment to the supplier of 1,961 units of automated vote-counting machines after the purchase contract was voided by the Supreme Court two years ago for being tainted with graft and legal infirmities.

Pimentel assailed the governments kid gloves treatment of officers and owners of the contractor, MegaPacific, who have defied the high courts order to return the payment to the government aside from going scot-free due to the Ombudsmans indecision on the graft charges filed against them and top officials of the Commission on Elections.

The minority leader raised this issue in the face of the Comelecs request for the allocation of P1 billion under the 2006 national budget for poll modernization and the reports that Chairman Benjamin Abalos is eyeing the adoption of an electronic voting system.

Out of delicadeza, Abalos and other Comelec officials should refrain from undertaking a new modernization program considering that they are facing criminal charges over their involvement in the anomalous vote-counting machine contract and the fact that the money spent for the idle equipment has not been recovered by the government, he said.

Pimentel said the chances for recovering the amount have dimmed after officers and incorporators of MegaPacific dissolved the company and closed down its office in Metro Manila.

Pimentel reiterated that Congress should not allocate funds for poll modernization this year unless Chairman Abalos and the other elections commissioners resign for having lost their credibility.

The contract was declared null and void by the Supreme Court, in a decision rendered in January, 2004, after it was found that Comelecs own technical specifications for the voting machines were not followed.

Pimentel said the voting machines manufactured by a South Korean company, were found to be obsolete and not suited for countrys tropical weather condition. Aside from this, he said the contract was found by graft investigators to be grossly overpriced.

He urged Abalos and company to heed the public demand for their mass resignation, instead of disowning any responsibility for the bungled automation deal.

Pimentel said Abalos and other Comelec commissioners committed an act of impropriety when they and by their wives, traveled to Seoul, South Korea sometime in 2003 to visit the plant of the maker of the counting machines.

Pimentel said he was informed that the plane tickets and hotel accommodations for the trip were bankrolled by the Korean company. This contradicted Abalos claim that the expenses for the trip were paid for out of the P1 million he won in a golf tournament in Wack Wack, Mandaluyong City.

If Chairman Abalos is telling the truth, I challenge him to produce the plane tickets, vouchers and other documents to support his claim, he said.

Pimentel also cited the findings of Ombudsman graft investigators about the linkages between and among the top officials of the Comelec and the officers of MegaPacific.

According to these findings, Abalos and MegaPacific incorporator Pedro Tan had stood as sponsors in the wedding of a son of two MegaPacific incorporators, spouses Enrique and Rosita Tansipek.

With the relationship of spouses Enrique and Rosita Tansipek and Pedro Tan with Abalos, prudence dictates that Abalos should have inhibited himself from the whole process. His failure put into a highly questionable condition or situation the integrity of the entire process of the bidding and awarding of the contract, as well as the credibility and independence of all the officials of the Comelec who participated, the Ombudsman findings said.

News Latest News Feed