A Catholic bishop sounded the alarm on the continued stay of six National Printing Office (NPO) executives dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman last year on graft charges, noting that their refusal to leave their posts may endanger the 2016 elections.
In a letter to Ombudsman Conchita-Carpio-Morales recently, a copy of which was circulated on social media last week, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo warned that the NPO official’ stay undermines the credibility of this year’s May polls.
“We are very alarmed that there must be something suspicious behind the administration’s continued refusal to implement the said Ombudsman order (OMB Case No. C-A-11-0227-E),” the prelate said.
“With the NPO designated to print the official ballots for the 2016 national and local elections, we cannot help but wonder why dismissed government officials headed by Emmanuel Andaya will be managing the operations,” he added.
But Malacañang on Thursday defended the officials, saying there is no final word yet from the anti-graft agency on their fate.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the NPO officials will continue to perform their functions until motions for reconsideration they filed are resolved.
He even cited the office for “operational efficiency.”
“The cases filed against certain officials of the NPO will not in any way hamper its operations including the printing of the official ballots,” Coloma noted.
Morales in July last year ordered the dismissal of Andaya, NPO director; Sylvia Banda, chief administrative officer; Josefina Samson, printing operations chief; Antonio Sillona, printing operations chief; Bernadette Lagumen, supervising administrative officer; and Ma. Gracia Enriquez, printing operations assistant chief.
The decision came after the agency found the officials “guilty of grave misconduct” over the anomalous printing of travel clearance certificates of the National Bureau of Investigation worth P1.9 million on November 18, 2010.
Despite the Ombudsman order, the six NPO executives still remain active since they are yet to be replaced.
Coloma said they will await the result of the respondents’ motions for reconsideration.
“The officials involved have filed their respective motions for reconsideration [of]the Office of the Ombudsman order and are awaiting [their]resolution,” he added.
Andaya, it was learned, was a member of the Presidential Security Group.
Pabillo further warned that the integrity of the elections may be affected by Malacañang’s refusal to heed the Ombudsman order.
“How can the citizenry be assured of clean and honest elections when the credibility of the officials to handle the printing of ballots is already suspicious?” he asked.
“The danger lies [in]the fact that these officials no longer have accountability to the government and can do away with possible malfeasance relative to the printing of the ballots,” Pabillo pointed out.
But Coloma argued that the NPO has been effective in printing ballots in previous polls and has even saved millions in government funds.
“The [NPO], an attached agency of the Presidential Communications Office [pursuant to Executive Order 4, s. 2010], is fully prepared to accept the final job order of the Commission on Elections [Comelec] for the printing of the official ballots, in time for the national elections in May. As announced by the Comelec, this will be given to NPO by 08 February 2016,” the Palace official said.
“If we may recall, in the May 2013 national elections, the NPO was able to print and deliver 52 million official ballots in just fifty seven  days, or three  weeks earlier than the target completion date set by the Comelec,” he added.
Because of “operational efficiency,” Coloma said the NPO completed the task at a printing cost that was P230 million lower than the estimated budget.
“Moreover, savings of up to P35 million were attained in cost of paper and there was no need for the Comelec to spend for the paper used in the printing of ballots for the barangay [village]elections in October 2013,” he pointed out.
The case against the six NPO officials stemmed from a complaint filed by Guillermo Sylianteng Jr., who alleged that the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) sub-contracted the project and awarded the contract to Advance Computer Forms Inc. without proper bidding and in violation of Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.
The complainant said Andaya approved the contract that was awarded to Advance Computer Forms.
The BAC was headed by Banda, with Samson, Sillona, Lagumen and Enriquez as members.
The NPO officials claimed “sub-contracting is not a prohibited activity under RA 9184” and that “the BAC resorted to emergency procurement considering the urgency of the subject purchase order.”
But the Ombudsman maintained that “there was no state of calamity that posed imminent danger to life or property, or time was of the essence arising from natural or man-made calamities, or other causes necessitating immediate action to restore vital public services, infrastructure facilities and other public utilities.”
It further argued that NBI travel clearance certificates are “not vital public services to justify the negotiated procurement of printing services of the subject purchase order.”