Impact Hub Manila to discuss payment mess 'privately' with Sofitel

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2022 04:43 PM

Comelec officials and Vote Pilipinas representatives grace the memorandum of agreement signing on the staging of Pilipinas Debates for the 2022 national elections at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City on March 7, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file
Comelec officials and Vote Pilipinas representatives grace the memorandum of agreement signing on the staging of Pilipinas Debates for the 2022 national elections at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City on March 7, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA — The company tapped by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to mount its series of Halalan 2022 debates has described its failure to pay Sofitel for hosting the events as a "misunderstanding" and "miscommunication". 

Impact Hub Manila, in a statement on Saturday through its lawyer, said "reports as to the cause of the miscommunication" were "incomplete."

The company said it will discuss "privately" its payment mess with Sofitel "and other stakeholders". 

"Unfortunately, the initiative between the two private companies encountered some misunderstandings. While there have been incomplete reports as to the cause of the miscommunication, Impact Hub Manila will refrain from publicly divulging these matters and will endeavor to discuss them with Sofitel and other stakeholders privately," it said.

The company added that Comelec was not a party to the contract between Impact Hub Manila and Sofitel.

Impact Hub also thanked Comelec for allowing it to be its production partner for the last 3 produced episodes of the 2022 presidential and vice presidential debates.

Bouncing checks

In a document obtained by ABS-CBN News this week, Sofitel Philippine Plaza threatened to "suspend all its remaining deliverables under the event contract" unless organizer Impact Hub coughs up P14 million as partial payment for their services. 

In its demand letter dated April 20, Sofitel said Impact Hub's Celeste Eden Rondario repeatedly issued them bouncing checks. 

Sofitel Philippine Plaza was the venue for the March 19 and 20 and April 3 debates. The last leg of the Comelec debates was initially set on Saturday and Sunday. 

Poll commissioner George Garcia on Friday said the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) would be their new partner in mounting the last 2 debates. 

They will be held on April 30 and May 1, instead of April 23 and 24. 

Comelec to shoulder Impact Hub's debt?

Several high-ranking Comelec officials are also being asked to explain their participation the allegedly "grossly disadvantageous" partnership with Impact Hub Manila. 

In an internal memorandum obtained by ABS-CBN News, Comelec Commissioner Rey Bulay flagged several possible irregularities with the poll body's deal with Impact Hub, which is allegedly financially incapable in staging projects of such scale. 

"Why was Impact Hub chosen organizer and how were they vetted?" Bulay said in a strongly-worded memo dated April 22. 

According to Bulay in the memo, some of his colleagues were willing to cough up P15 million to save Impact Hub from its financial mess with Sofitel. 

"While others are considering releasing P15 million from Comelec funds to pay Sofitel, no one was able to cite the basis for the release of such funds. Impact Hub contracted Sofitel for the [debate] venue… It is clear that Comelec has no contractual relationship with Sofitel," Bulay said.

"If Comelec releases P15 million of public funds, Comelec will be wrongly covering up Impact Hub’s liability, as Comelec will be paying on behalf of Impact Hub," he added. 

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