Press Release
August 17, 2006


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Nene Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today disputed the argument of lawyers of the Commission on Elections that former Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo should not be allowed to testify on the ongoing Ombudsmans hearings on the possible criminal liability of elections officials involved in the P1.3 billion poll automation contract with MegaPacific.

Pimentel asked the Ombudsman to reconsider its ruling granting the motion of Comelec lawyers that Benipayo should be barred from testifying on the ground that this will violate the principle of client-lawyer relations.

Benipayo acted as legal counsel for Comelec during the Supreme Court hearings on the MegaPacific case and as such supposedly received confidential or privileged information from the poll body. Benipayo also once served as chairman of Comelec before Chairman Benjamin Abalos.

Pimentel, one of the complainants in the case, said that former Solicitor General Benipayo should not be barred from testifying, pointing out that his testimony is not covered by lawyer-client privileged communication.

Abalos is not a private person. Neither was Benipayo when he, acting as solicitor general, might have had access to information coming from Abalos and Comelec, he explained.

The Ombudsman investigating panel invited Benipayo because of his pronouncement during the Senate inquiry on the controversy that the 1,991 automated counting machines may have been overpriced.

Pimentel argued the rule of privileged communication between lawyer and client does not apply when the parties are government officials.

The constitutional principle of transparency and the prohibition of graft-ridden contracts from being entered into by government officials supervene in the MegaPacific-Comelec deal, he said.

Abalos cannot hide behind the principle of lawyer and client relationship to forestall Senate inquiry or Ombudsman investigation into the anomalous contract that Comelec and MegaPacific consummated.

News Latest News Feed