Press Release
May 7, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today called on Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to heed the directive of the Supreme Court to decide on the graft charges against the commissioners and other officials of the Commission on Elections who approved or facilitated the P1.3 billion computerization contract with MegaPacific consortium which was voided by the Supreme Court for legal and technical flaws and for being grossly disadvantageous to the government.

Pimentel hailed the high tribunals order giving the Ombudsman until June 30 to decide whether there are sufficient grounds to prosecute the respondents and file the appropriate charges before the Sandiganbayan.

The Ombudsman should act with dispatch on the graft case against the Comelec executives so that justice is done and new commissioners are appointed with ample time to familiarize themselves with the laws and procedures for 2007 elections, he said.

Saying that the Ombudsmans final action on the case is long overdue, Pimentel said that as early as October, 2004, the Ombudsmans Legal, Monitoring and Prosecution Division had found prima facie evidence to charge the respondent Comelec commissioners, and other senior officials, as well as private parties, involved in the automation project for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).

He said he had been reliably informed that then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo had promised to sign the resolution on the graft case against the respondents in the poll automation deal before his resignation Nov. 30, 2005. Unfortunately, he said Marcelo reneged on his promise.

Pimentel said the resolution of the graft case is an indispensable part of the process for cleansing the Comelec of its tainted image as a scandal-ridden institution owing to the allegations of massive fraud that marred the 2004 presidential election.

He said this will also pave the way for an honest-to-goodness revamp of the poll body which is being demanded by majority of the Filipino citizenry in the hope of seeing its credibility and integrity restored.

Unless the case is resolved, the stigma of graft will continue to hang over the Comelec that will render it ineffective in performing its constitutional duties and in safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process, the lone senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel cited a recommendation of Presidential Adviser on Electoral Reforms, retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. that while Comelec commissioners cannot be removed or compelled to resign because they have a fixed term of office as constitutional officials, the graft charges against them should be expeditiously resolved by the Ombudsman.

In fact, the minority leader said the Ombudsman, if she decides based on evidence on hand, can proceed with the criminal prosecution of the four of the seven Comelec commissioners who signed the resolution on the automation project since they have already retired from the service, and therefore no longer enjoy immunity from suit.

In January, 2004, the Supreme Court declared the Comelec-MegaPacific contract null and void and ordered the Ombudsman to determine the criminal liability, if any, of the public officials, and conspiring private individuals, involved in the business deal. The high court also directed the Office of the Solicitor General to recover the money paid to MegaPacific.

Pimentel said Ombudsman Gutierrez should give priority to the major, high-profile graft cases long pending with her office, specially those involving top government officials, instead of dissipating the energies and resources of her office to peripheral activities like monitoring of unauthorized use of government vehicles for non-official or personal purposes, which is already being done by the Office of the Executive Secretary and transportation authorities.

He said the Ombudsmans footdragging on the case is unjustified and could not be tolerated anymore since it is the mandate of the Ombudsman and her deputies as protectors of the people, to act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials.

Ombudsman investigators, according to Pimentel, have confirmed the allegations of the complainants that the 1,961 automated vote-counting machines bought from South Korea were grossly overpriced. Citing the report of the Ombudsmans Legal, Monitoring and Prosecution Division, he said the Comelec officials were also found to have deviated from the agencys own bidding rules and specifications for the automated counting machines. The findings also showed that the amount for import duties on the counting machines was not deducted from the purchase price despite the tax exemption enjoyed by Comelec.

Pimentel said the Comelec officials concerned tried to extricate themselves from trouble by trying to convince the Supreme Court to allow the use of the counting machines in electoral exercises instead of seeing them lying idle. But the high court repeatedly shot down the dubious proposition.

News Latest News Feed