MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The head of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) law department has been replaced by a Comelec lawyer who was suspended for approving a P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract last year.
Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan said he was replaced by Atty. Allen Francis Abaya, who is one of 6 Comelec officers who were suspended for 6 months for approving the alleged overpriced contract for folders that were supposed to be used in the May 10, 2010 elections.
"Di na ko nagpeperform. Yung mga papeles di na dumadaan sa akin," Rafanan told ABS-CBN News.
Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez, however, denied that Abaya is replacing Rafanan as the law department chief.
In his Twitter account, Jimenez said Abaya's transfer was lateral and not a promotion. He also said the OIC of the Comelec Law Department is Commissioner Rene Sarmiento.
Abaya's transfer is included in Comelec Resolution 9267, which was promulgated by the commission en banc last August 2.
Before his transfer to the law department, Abaya was Director III of the Comelec Electoral Contests and Adjudication Department (ECAD).
The resolution said Rafanan was being reassigned temporarily to the Comelec-Department of Justice panel that will investigate poll fraud and irregularities in the 2004 and 2007 elections. It said the reassignment is only for a period of 3 months, from August 1, 2011 to end-October 2011.
Four other Comelec directors were also temporarily reassigned to different departments.
'Rafanan might not come back'
In an interview, Rafanan questioned why he was removed from his position when he could do both jobs at once.
"Ang definition ng re-assignment, under civil service rules, dapat kalevel na opisina. Sa Comelec din at hindi sa labas, lalo na ad hoc lang," he told ABS-CBN News.
He also denied Jimenez's statement that Abaya was just a deputy OIC of the law department. He said Abaya was already doing the work of a law department head.
Rafanan said he sees a deeper reason for his reassignment. "Gusto nilang ma-divert function ko dito. Alam nila istrikto ako sa investigation like sa folder scam," he said.
Rafanan investigated the P690-million ballot secrecy folder contract with OTC paper supply, which was junked by Comelec.
Five members of the Comelec bids and awards committee were suspended for 6 months for approving the contract including Abaya, Maria Norina Casingal, Atty. Martin Niedo, Antonio Santella and chairwoman Maria Lea Alarkon. Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino was also suspended.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said Rafanan's removal from the law department is only temporary since he needs to concentrate on his work on the 2004 and 2007 electoral fraud.
However, he also conceded that Rafanan might not be able to return as the poll body's law department chief.
"Ang problema sa kaniya, he concentrates more on the outside. Laging walang sa opisina. Mahilig mag-imbestiga kahit santambak ang trabaho sa law department," Brillantes said.
Lawyer Melchor Magdamo, the whistleblower in the ballot secrecy folder deal, said the Comelec en banc's decision to appoint Abaya to the law department sends a wrong signal.
"It's sending a wrong signal. Yung iniimbestigahan sa folder scam, yun ang ipinalit sa nag-imbestiga. Malamang mapalusutan ng mga kaso," he said. -- report from Anthony Taberna, ABS-CBN News