P188-M padding in poll contract?

The Comelec was questioned after a winning bid of P302 million for the deployment of election paraphernalia in Mindanao rose to P490 million in just 9 days

MANILA, Philippines – How could a winning bid of P302 million for the deployment of election paraphernalia in Mindanao rise to P490 million in just 9 days?

Specifically, it is a P188-million padding question that the Commission on Elections has failed to answer. (Erratum: Earlier, the actual amount, P187,885,422.4, was not rounded off correctly to P188-M. This was what was reflected in an earlier graphic too. We regret the error.)

Four persons have filed a complaint before the Ombudsman against Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials. It involves an alleged anomalous contract with the forwarder Airfreight 2100 Inc (Air 21).

They lamented this as one classic case of “padding,” a practice allegedly associated with the poll body.

Perfecto Santos, chairman of the Kaagapay ng Bayan, Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Gregorio Fabros of Kontra Daya, and Melchor Magdamo sought to implead Brillantes for not acting on their report – even if they had alerted the Comelec chief about the alleged anomaly.

Also sought to be impleaded in a supplemental complaint affidavit filed last April 19 is Air 21 chairman Alberto Lina.

Reached for comment, Brillantes simply shrugged off the complaint. “How come they are the ones complaining? Who are these people?” he asked.

Comelec resolutions

The complainants submitted to the Ombudsman two versions of the resolution issued by the Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) in connection with the deployment of the automated counting machines in Mindanao, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

One version of Resolution 14, dated Feb 14, 2013, said that based on the post-qualification evaluation of the SBAC technical working group, Airfreight 2100 Inc submitted the lowest bid of P302,195,862.46 for the deployment of counting machines and paraphernalia in Regions IX, X, XI, XII, Caraga and the ARMM.

Based on this, the SBAC recommended that the notice of award be given to Air 21.

The February 14 SBAC resolution was signed by SBAC chairman Helen Aguila-Flores, vice chair Jubiel Surmieda, and members Divina Blas-Perez and Erna Malinao. A 5th SBAC member, John Rex Laudiangco did not sign the resolution.

But a second version of the SBAC Resolution 14, dated Feb 23, 2013, essentially contained the same details as the one dated February 14, except for two major changes.

First, the contract price was now pegged at P490,081,284. 96 or a difference of P187.88 million. Second, two members of the SBAC, Malinao and Laudiangco, did not sign this February 23-dated resolution.

In a letter dated March 18, Santos informed Brillantes about the discrepancy in the amounts stated in the SBAC Resolution 14 dated February 14 and the notice of award given to Airfreight 2100 dated March 5.

No action

“Mr Chairman, we believe in your honesty and integrity, of your crusade to cleanse the Commission of undesirable elements and of your ardent  desire to conduct clean and honest election with a popularly acceptable result.”

“Accordingly, and in the interest of publis service, accountability and good governance, we respectfully urge your honorable office to immediately conduct an investigation, inform the public of its outcome, and when evidence so warrant, file appropriate criminal charges against those who are involved,” Santos said. He also furnished the rest of the poll body members and the SBAC members copies of the letter.

Yet a month after alerting Brillantes about the alleged irregularity, the complainants said that the poll chief never lifted a finger to probe the incident.

Neglect of duty

They said that Brillantes should be slapped with violation of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials for neglect of duty.

In dismissing the complaint before the Ombudsman, Brillantes pointed out that Air 21’s rival for the contract did not even question the notice of award. “Why are these people the ones raising a complaint?” Brillantes argued.

A check on the Comelec website showed that the second lowest bidder was Argo International Forwarders Inc. The Comelec SBAC, in Resolution No. 6 dated January 18, rejected a motion for reconsideration filed by Argo International. Argo questioned the SBAC’s decision to declare Air 21’s bid as the lowest calculated bid. In this resolution, the SBAC pointed out that Argo submitted a bid of P547. 9 million, compared to Air 21’s P490 million.

Asked to explain why there appears to be two resolutions awarding the contract to Air 21 with different amounts, Brillantes said, “I do not want to explain — not until I get a notice from the Ombudsman.”

Apart from Brillantes and Air 21’s Lina, the complainants also sought investigation of Sean Pestano, Air 21’s authorized representative, for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; Aguila-Flores, Surmieda and Perez “for causing undue injury to government…giving private party unwarranted benefits  and dishonesty…” and Malinao and Laudiengco for neglect of duty.

Air 21 also won the bid for the deployment of PCOS machines and election paraphernalia in Northern and Southern Luzon with a total contract price of P649.405 million.

Including the Mindanao, Caraga and ARMM deployment, the company has bagged contracts totaling P1.139 billion.

Discrepancies

Rappler examined the Notices of Award for the deployment of election paraphernalia in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, and found two discrepancies vis-à-vis the Notice of Award for the PCOS deployment in Mindanao

First, the contracts for deployment in Luzon and Visayas were signed on February 28, while the contracts for deployment in Mindanao were signed on March 5.

Second, a closer look at the March 5 Notice of Award shows that the date was only typewritten, whereas the date on the Notices of Award for Luzon and Visayas was computerized. 

  • Contracts for deployment of election paraphernalia in Luzon and Visayas:

  • Contract for deployment of election paraphernalia in Mindanao:

– Rappler.com