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MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) sent the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a crucial document that would enable the poll body to fulfill its longtime dream of constructing an office building complex.
Out of all constitutional offices in the Philippines, only the Comelec remains without its own building. For the past 16 years, the poll body has been renting office spaces at Palacio del Gobernador, a decrepit building in Intramuros, Manila.
The Comelec said on Thursday, April 13, that it received from the DBM on March 28 what is called multi-year contractual authority, which states that the budget department will cover the cost of the poll body’s building construction within a three-year period starting 2023.
The funding allocation for the P8.39-billion project is as follows:
- 2023: P1.248 billion
- 2024: P3.713 billion
- 2025: P3.429 billion
The building complex will be located along Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City, on a P1-billion lot that was bought by the Comelec under the leadership of the late former chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. in 2011.
Comelec officials and employees have always wanted a building that they could call their own, but past leaderships fell short of carrying out this project.
Numerous factors contributed to the project’s delay: the Comelec prioritized elections, private companies that were eyed to finance the project through a public-private partnership backed out, and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) failed to attract bidders for a detailed design of the proposed building.
In 2018, the Comelec, under the leadership of then-chairman Sheriff Abas, took back the project from the DPWH, and found a firm willing to create a building design.
In August 2022, Chairman George Garcia entered the Comelec and revived calls for the construction of a new building, in the wake of a fire that hit a portion of their IT department office in July.
He argued that letting the Comelec erect its own building would save the government money in the future, instead of continuously renting office spaces that cost them P169 million yearly.
Rappler has produced in-depth pieces on the sorry state of current Comelec offices, where employees endure crowded spaces just to get work done.
An independence issue
Sometime in late 2017 to early 2018, the Comelec was also at risk of expulsion from Palacio del Gobernador following a Malacañang order to retake the office spaces.
Comelec officials at the time were left with no choice but to knock on Malacañang’s doors and beg that the poll body be allowed to stay in the rundown building.
Past and present Comelec officials have asserted that having their own building would bolster the poll body’s efforts to be perceived as independent.
“Imagine, the institution in charge of overseeing the election of the country’s leaders – from the president to barangay councilor – does not have its own home,” Comelec employees’ union president Mac Ramirez had told Rappler in August 2022. “The office that protects the country’s sovereignty does not have its own building. It’s time for our own.” – Rappler.com