WE hope–more than that, we pray–that the Ombudsman grants Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz’s appeal.
The former head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines–who is now the chairman of the CBCP’s National Tribunal for Appeals–has written to the Ombudsman imploring her and her Office to give due course to a complaint against, cum petition for an investigation into, the P268-million contract awarded by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to Smartmatic-TIM Corp. for the diagnostics, repair and refurbishing of 82,000 units of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.
The Comelec, of course using taxpayers’ money, had bought these machines for almost P2 billion from the Venezuelan marketing company.
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz’s letter endorses the complaint filed by the election watchdog NGO, Citizens for Clean and Honest Election (C3E), against Acting Comelec Chairman Christian Robert Lim, Commissioner Al Parreno and retired Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes in connection with that contract. C3E, and many credible persons and bodies of experts on elections and the Comelec’s management of our country’s electoral processes, have called this contract an illegal “midnight deal.”
The Roman Catholic prelate–who is well-known for being a rigorous critic of the pervasive gambling culture in our society and the massive resurgence of jueteng and other forms of illegal gambling throughout the archipelago during these almost five years of Aquino rule–assured Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that his “one and only interest in this matter is the concern for truth and justice ultimately for the common welfare of the people and the public good of the country as a whole.”
Filed by C3E convenor Melchor Magdamo, the group’s request to the Ombudsman to investigate the deal points out that the negotiated–not bidded out– Comelec-Smartmatic contract is grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Magdamo explained that the Comelec need not pay anything because the almost P2 billion it paid to Smartmatic-TIM for the supply of 82,000 units of PCOS machines includes a warranty that Smartmatic will repair defects in the precinct counting machines.
“Many PCOS units were found to be full of defects during the 13 May 2013 elections. Smartmatic must repair them [without additional payment]because the warranty period is not yet over,” Magdamo said.
He said instead of Comelec paying Smartmatic for fixing defective machines it must be the Venezuelan company that should pay. He stressed that the Smartmatic warranty binds Smartmatic to the duty and obligation of repairing defects in the PCOS machines sold to Comelec.
Magdamo also pointed out that Comelec had so much time to enforce the warranty since May 13, 2013 but dilly-dallied until the time when Brillantes and two other commissioners were about to retire. Then at that time, they decided to award the contract to Smartmatic on a negotiated basis.
“We therefore request for [the Ombudsman’s]assistance to investigate this turn-turtle redefinition of ‘warranty’ – who must pay what to whom,” he wrote.
The P268 million negotiated contract for the repair of the 82,000 PCOS machines was signed by then still Comelec Chairman Brillantes on January 31 or two days before his retirement.
Brillantes has assailed critics that they did not understand the Comelec system when they allege that the P268-million is a midnight deal. He said,
“They have to understand the set up of the Comelec. The resolution (approving the Smartmatic contract) was a resolution of the Commission en banc.”
Well, we see it clearly that since the P268-million contract illegally ignores the existence of the warranty by virtue of which the Comelec doesn’t have to pay Smartmatic to fix and refurbish defective PCOS machines it sold to us for almost P2 billion, the contract should be declared null and void.
Those who have imposed this burden on us taxpayers must be made to answer for their illegal act.