MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered a Makati court to seize the assets of a firm whose P1.2-billion* ($24.46 million) poll automation deal with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was nullified by the SC itself in 2004.
In a decision promulgated last June 27, the SC said Branch 59 of the Makati Regional Trial Court should issue a writ of preliminary attachment over the properties of Mega Pacific eSolutions Inc (MPEI), as well as its incorporators.
A copy of the decision penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was obtained recently.
The SC explained: “A writ of preliminary attachment is a provisional remedy issued upon the order of the court where an action is pending. Through the writ, the property or properties of the defendant may be levied upon and held thereafter by the sheriff as security for the satisfaction of whatever judgment might be secured by the attaching creditor against the defendant.”
One of the things it achieves is that it “seizes upon property of an alleged debtor in advance of final judgment.”
Mega Pacific was the company tasked to steer the Philippines’ first automated elections supposed to be held in 2004. Back then, the company already delivered 1,991 automated counting machines to the Comelec, while the poll body paid a partial payment of P1.05 billion* ($22.29 million).
The SC in 2004, however, nullified the Comelec’s automation contract with the Korean company and upheld this decision with finality in 2006.
‘Reckless disregard’ of bidding rules
The SC said the Comelec committed a “grave abuse of discretion.” It said the Comelec’s violations included the following:
- Committing a “reckless disregard of its own bidding rules and procedure”
- Entering into the contract “with inexplicable haste, and without adequately checking and observing mandatory financial, technical, and legal requirements”
With the Comelec-Mega Pacific deal nullified, the Philippines held manual elections in 2004, when the country elected Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president.
The Comelec ended up holding its first automated elections in 2010.
The company behind this was Smartmatic, which also provided the Philippines’ vote-counting machines in the 2013 and 2016 elections.
The SC on June 27 said that “fraud on the part of respondent MPEI was sufficiently established by the factual findings of this Court in its 2004 decision and subsequent pronouncements.”
“The present case involves the attempt of petitioner Republic of the Philippines to cause the attachment of the properties owned by respondent MPEI, as well as by its incorporators and stockholders (individual respondents in this case), in order to secure petitioner’s interest and to ensure recovery of the payments it made to respondents for the invalidated automation contract,” the SC said. – Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com
*$1 = P47.13