Ruling on ballot secrecy folder scam case hailed

By Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Jul 30 2010 02:01 AM | Updated as of Aug 01 2010 01:38 AM

6 Comelec officials suspended over ballot secrecy folder scam

MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman ordered on Thursday the 6-month preventive suspension of 6 officials of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) over the allegedly overpriced ballot secrecy folder deal.

Suspended were Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino, Bids and Awards Committee Chair Maria Lea Alarkon and 4 members of the committee.

The Ombudsman said it found enough evidence to prove that the 6 Comelec officials favored the supplier, OTC Paper Supply, by making prior arrangements and divulging confidential information to the company.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo cancelled the P690 million contract after discovering that the folders were overpriced, with each folder worth P380.

"Yun din ang lumabas sa findings namin. We recommended the filing of charges against them. Yun pala, sa parallel investigation na ginawa ng Ombudsman ganun din," said Ferdinand Rafanan, head of the Comelec Legal Department.

In its recommendation, the Comelec's 3-man investigation panel included filing charges against the supplier.

Vindication and triumph

In an interview on ANC's "The Rundown" on Thursday, Dr. Edwin Serrano, a whistleblower of the anomalous folder contract, called the Ombudsman's decision a vindication and a triumph.

"What we have been advocating from the very start is good governance and transparency, and making good use of people's money being used by all government agencies including Comelec," Serrano said.

Serrano, the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) representative to the Comelec's Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), said there may be others linked to the anomaly.

"It's not only the 6 of them, but I believe it's a good start. They are in the best shoes to spill the beans," he said, adding officials from the OTC Paper Supply may also help shed light on the anomaly.

"I believe this is only the start of so many cases that will be filed against them, and it would be very good that we could also get reactions from those 6 people and from the 2 others from the OTC paper supply."

Serrano admitted he may still question the poll body on a few other transactions it entered into.

"I would've been so blind so as not to see all those items, those transactions. I could've mentioned some other transactions. There were still some transactions with which I would like to challenge Comelec."

Citing the seeming laxity of the poll body in supervising the transaction, Serrano said the Aquino administration is on the right track in pursuing measures like the Government Procurement Reform Act and the Whistleblower's Protection Act.