MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the preventive suspension of 6 Commission on Elections (Comelec) personnel involved in the allegedly overpriced P690 million ballot secrecy folder deal.
In a 10-page order, Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez said there is justification to suspend Comelec Executive Director Jose M. Tolentino, Jr.; Bids and Awards Committee chairman Atty. Marial Lea R. Alarkon and members Allen Francis B. Abaya, Maria Norina T. Casingal, Martin Niedo and Antonio Santella.
Gutierrez said “careful assessment of the facts and circumstances of the instant case show that there is sufficient justification for the imposition of preventive suspension against herein respondents considering all the conditions for its imposition has been met.”
The Comelec officials will not be receiving any pay while under suspension.
Comelec earlier admitted the BAC committed a lapse in judgment when it awarded to OTC Paper Supply the contract to supply and deliver 1,815,000 pieces of 25 inches long ballot secrecy folders to the tune of P690 million.
Based on the investigations made by the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO), Tolentino “provided unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to OTC Paper Supply (OTC) by making prior arrangements and/or divulging valuable and confidential information with them as shown by OTC’S astonishing speed to produce a tailor-fitted, COMELEC-approved, BSF design in just a matter of days.”
The members of the BAC, on the other hand, allegedly “erred in undertaking the alternative mode of procurement/direct contracting without any initial inquiry as to the claim of exclusivity of OTC.”
The investigation arm said the officials should be administratively charged for violation of Sec. 4A(a) of Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees); and Dishonesty, Gross Neglect of Duty, Grave Misconduct, and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service under Rule IV, Sec. 52 (A), pars. 1, 2, 3, and 20 of Civil Service Commission Resolution No. 99-1936 (The Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service).
The FIO already filed a parallel criminal case against the personnel for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft Law.
Gutierrez has already ordered Comelec Chairman Jose Melo to immediately implement the order.
In Malacanang, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda welcomed the development.
He said “it’s a controversy that needs to be resolved. I hope it will be resolved with speed.”