Comelec rejects debate partner Impact Hub's bid to collect P15.3 million 'debt'

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 23 2023 03:28 PM | Updated as of May 24 2023 04:38 PM

Impact Hub Manila CEO Celeste Eden Rondario joins the memorandum of agreement signing between Comelec and Vote Pilipinas to stage the Pilipinas Debates for the 2022 national elections at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City on March 7, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said Tuesday it would not pay Impact Hub Manila, the poll body’s partner in mounting the 2022 Pilipinas Debates.

Impact Hub is demanding that Comelec pay P15.3 million as part of its supposed contract for mounting the 2022 election debates.

In a letter addressed to Impact Hub’s supplier, Comelec Executive Director Teopisto Elnas Jr. said the company’s “demand for payment is not accompanied by the documentary requirements necessary to establish the validity of claim.”

Payments that fail to comply with rules can be the subject of disallowance by the Commission on Audit, as well as criminal, civil, and administrative liabilities, he noted. 

“In this regard, the Commission is constrained to DENY Impact Hub's claim for P15,300,000.00," the official said.

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Impact Hub, led by CEO Celeste Rondario, allegedly issued bouncing checks to debate venue Sofitel Philippine Plaza last year, forcing the hotel to seek Comelec's help in collecting over P14 million in unpaid bills. 

This had forced the Comelec to move the last leg of debates a week later, with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) as new partner.

Impact Hub "shall be sending our formal written reply" to the Comelec, the firm's legal counsel Ma. Karla Denise Frias said. 

"We appreciate the written response of the Comelec to our client’s demand letter," she added. 

The Comelec, in a letter dated May 19, said it will not pay Impact Hub Manila, saying the company’s “demand for payment is not accompanied by the documentary requirements necessary to establish the validity of claim.”

Speaking to reporters, Comelec chair George Garcia said “5 to 6” personalities, including current and former Comelec personnel, private and public individuals, may be identified as liable to face charges by the poll body’s investigation panel.

The panel’s report, expected to detail which provisions of the law were violated, is expected to be submitted on Tuesday to the en banc and released to the public, Garcia said. 

He assured there would be no whitewash in the report.

“Walang whitewash, walang babaguhin, walang iibahin kung hindi kung ano ang tunay na lumabas sa kanilang report. Sino man at ano man ang mababanggit na mga tao doon, whether present, former, nandito o wala, kinakailangan mabanggit po doon, kinakailangan mapasama, kinakailangan makita kung ano ang puno’t dulo nito upang hindi na tularan o mangyari ulit,” Garcia said.

(There will be no whitewash, nothing will be changed from what originally appeared in their report. Regardless of who is mentioned there, whether present or former officials, should be included, we need to find out how all of this started so that it would not be repeated.)

Garcia said media entities should be the ones that should mount the next debates as what was done previously, following the Fair Election Act.


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