ELECTION LAWYER:

Comelec commissioner should be impeached for graft, misconduct

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Election advocate Glenn Chong has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate Commission on Elections (Comelec) Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim for graft and corruption and serious misconduct for unduly favoring Smartmatic, the provider of automated election machines.

In a 19-page affidavit-complaint, Chong, a former representative of the lone district of Biliran, said the investigation would be preparatory to an impeachment complaint that would be filed against Lim for betrayal of public trust.

The complaint against the Comelec official comes as Congress prepares to hear the impeachment complaint against Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista for alleged ill-gotten wealth and negligence.

Chong said his complaint urging the Ombudsman to investigate serious misconduct for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment was warranted under Section 22 of Republic Act (RA) 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989.


“Section 22 of RA 6770 states that the Office of the Ombudsman has power to investigate any serious misconduct in office allegedly committed by officials removable by impeachment, for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. This is the reason why I am filing this affidavit-complaint today,” he said.

Chong, a lawyer, pointed out that Lim committed serious misconduct when he allegedly conspired with Smartmatic in violating election laws and rules.

Such misconduct had been established in the case of Pabillo, et al. vs Comelec when the Supreme Court found the Comelec, through then Acting Chairman Lim, committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess in jurisdiction when it entered into a P240-million diagnostics contract with Smartmatic through negotiation instead of public bidding, he said.

As established in the case, Lim, as then chairman of the Comelec Steering Committee, had actively pushed and negotiated privately with Smartmatic for the reuse of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 elections when he knew beforehand that the machines had serious and widespread accuracy problems in the 2013 elections.

“Respondent, being the chairman of the Comelec Steering Committee of the 2013 National and Local Elections was fully aware of the accuracy and ‘digital lines’ problems and their magnitude early on, yet, over a period of more than one year, he actively sought to downplay these problems and proceeded to negotiate privately with Smartmatic for the reuse of the same severely problematic PCOS machines,” Chong said.

He said Lim not only pushed for the reuse of the problematic PCOS machines but he proceeded to enter into a private negotiation with Smartmatic for the diagnostics of the machines instead of going through a public bidding as required by law.

“Respondent’s act of directly negotiating with the joint venture of Smartmatic-TIM Corp. in his capacity as authorized Comelec negotiator and chairman of the Steering Committee, thereafter voting to approve the illegal award of the anomalous “midnight deal” to Smartmatic-TIM Corp., and his personal knowledge of prior and subsequent contractual and legal violations of Smartmatic significantly affecting the accuracy of the voting machines and the integrity of the automated elections, unmistakably evinced his manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence and which caused undue injury to the government, as well as gave Smartmatic-TIM Corp. unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official functions. Respondent acted more like a sales agent of Smartmatic-TIM Corp. rather than a public servant faithful to his oath,” Chong claimed.

Lim’s bias in favor of Smartmatic was also evident when he overturned a decision of the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to disqualify Smartmatic on the lease of 23,000 new units of Optical Mark Readers and Optical Scan Systems on both legal and technical grounds, Chong said.

“Only the respondent unqualifiedly voted to grant the protest of the Smartmatic JV (joint venture) over its disqualification by the BAC. Again, this shows the manifest partiality of respondent in favor of the Smartmatic JV. By doing so, he caused undue injury to the government and gave a private party unwarranted benefits, advantages or preferences in the discharge of his official functions,” he explained.

Chong also accused Lim of manipulating his colleagues and persistently calling for Bautista to resign so that he could be acting chairman until his term expires early next year.

“The prospect of the respondent becoming acting chairman of the Comelec in the remaining few months of his term by manipulating his colleagues and persistently calling on Chairman Andres Bautista to either resign or take a leave of absence even months before the impeachment complaint was filed is by all means an indication of his intense interest for the position in the light of the ongoing preparations of the Comelec for the forthcoming 2019 elections. As the litany of facts and circumstances in this complaint bears out, respondent’s long held manifest partiality can only favor one party – Smartmatic and all its minions,” Chong said.

He claimed the evidence against Lim was more than just a “whiff of corruption,” quoting President Rodrigo Duterte. “And in the light of the charges against the Office of the Ombudsman for ‘selective justice,’ a speedy investigation and prosecution of respondent, a known counsel for the Liberal Party, can very well disprove the charge and shore up confidence in the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.

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