Press Release
June 17, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today urged Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to comply with the directive of the Supreme Court to resolve by June 30 this year the graft charges against officials of the Commission on Elections who approved the P1.3 billion poll automation contract with MegaPacific.

Pimentel debunked Gutierrezs protestation that the high tribunals rejection of her appeal to reconsider its directive could trigger a constitutional crisis and undermine the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman.

What constitutional crisis? Since when has a Supreme Court order to a subordinate official been the cause of a constitutional crisis? I am sorry to disagree with the Ombudsman in this regard, he said.

The minority leader said there was nothing unreasonable about the SCs order which was meant to expedite the resolution of the case, which he filed with the Ombudsman shortly after the high court voided the MegaPacific contract on January 13, 2004 due to legal infirmities.

The Supreme Court reminded the Ombudsman that as protector of the people, it was mandated to act promptly on all complaints filed in any form or manner against any public official or employee of the government. Pimentel said there is nothing in the courts order that would undermine the independence of the Ombudsman.

Ombudsman Gutierrez probably thinks that because hers is a constitutional office, the Supreme Court cannot order her to expedite cases under investigation by her office. I think that she is in error here because if the Supreme Court can nullify acts of Congress or of the President, who are constitutional officials, and sometimes order the performance of positive acts, there is no reason why the Supreme Court cannot order the Ombudsman to do something to attain the ends of law, Pimentel said.

He disagreed with Ombudsman Gutierrezs contention that the Supreme Courts directive was tantamount to intrusion in its judicial independence since the tribunal merely told the Ombudsman to decide on the case within a given time-frame and did not in anyway suggest how it should decide on the case.

As the high court said in turning down the Ombudsmans motion for reconsideration: Nowhere in the questioned resolution did the court demand that the Ombudsman decide or make specific determination one way or the other of the culpability of any of the parties. Our directive was for the Ombudsman to report its final determination on whether a probable cause exists against any of the public officials and conspiring public individuals, if any.

Pimentel said the Ombudsmans resolution of the case is long overdue since it has dragged on for more than two years now and it had been exhaustively investigated by graft probers of the anti-graft body during the time of Gutierrezs predecessor, Simeon Marcelo.

Under the contract, MegaPacific supplied 1,961 units of Korean-made automated vote-counting machines to the Comelec for use in the May 10, 2004 elections.

But the Supreme Court voided the contract on the ground that Comelec disregarded its own bidding rules for the automation of the counting and canvassing of votes when it awarded the deal to MegaPacific.

Reprimanding the Comelec for awarding the contract with inexplicable haste, the high court also ordered the authorities concerned to require MegaPacific to refund the P1.3 billion payment for the counting machines and satellite transmission facilities.

The court found the counting machines vulnerable to election fraud on a massive scale by means of just a few key strokes.

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