Comelec junks P26M ‘bib vests’ for teachers

Paterno Esmaquel II
Comelec junks P26M ‘bib vests’ for teachers
(UPDATED) Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon says 5 of 7 poll executives 'sent written memos to cancel the purchase' of election day uniforms

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday, April 5, junked its controversial plan to buy “bib vest” uniforms worth P26.55 million ($574,300) for teachers serving as election inspectors.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon confirmed this on Tuesday after poll officials opposed the plan.

Guanzon said she and commissioners Christian Lim, Luie Guia, Arthur Lim, and Sheriff Abas “sent written memos to cancel the purchase.”

In an interview with reporters on Monday, April 4, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, for his part, stood by the plan to buy bib vests.

Guanzon said in her memo written on Monday, “We have the duty to comply with the Auditing Code of the Philippines to avoid unnecessary and extravagant expenditures.” 

Guanzon, a former commissioner of the Commission on Audit, said she has “heard comments that the teachers do not like to wear” the bib vests.

The bib vests aim to identify teachers serving as board of election inspectors (BEIs).

IDs enough, Guanzon says

“Perhaps a big identification card will serve the same purpose of identifying who the BEIs are instead of spending so much public funds for what, to my mind, is not necessary,” Guanzon said.

The commissioner added that if the contract for bib vests has been scheduled for bidding, the Comelec “has the power to stop it.”

But if it has already been bidded out, “we have the option not to grant the Notice of Award, in the interest of the public.”

This comes as the Comelec is set to open the bidding for two sets of election day uniforms: the P26.55-million ($574,300) “bib vests” for election inspectors and P1.23-million ($26,608) T-shirts for employees of the poll body. (READ: Senator hits poll uniforms: ‘Why throw away P20M?’

On Tuesday, Comelec Commissioner Arthur Lim also released a memo on the uniforms for election inspectors. 

“I am reconsidering my vote for the procurement of T-shirts/uniforms for BEIs and Comelec personnel,” Lim said in a memorandum tweeted by Comelec reporters.

Lim said he will explain his reasons upon his return from Hong Kong.

‘Eroding public confidence’

He said he is also voting “to strictly comply with the two-failed bidding rule” regarding the procurement of ball pens. He did not elaborate.

“Commissioner Sheriff Abas, likewise in Hong Kong, is joining this opinion,” Lim said.

Comelec Commissioners Luie Guia and Christian Lim, for their part, said the poll body should reconsider the bib vests because it “was generally met with negative reactions.”

They said criticism initially “was heavy” in social media, and later the mainstream media “came out with its critique of the procurement.”

They said the Comelec’s response, unfortunately, “was less than satisfactory, even prompting more insulting and accusatory reactions from the public,” according to their memo tweeted by the media on Tuesday.

Guia and Lim said the bib vests “will add to the recent public relations challenges” that the Comelec has been enduring.

They said the election day uniforms, instead of boosting the credibility of the elections, “may end up eroding public confidence” in the May 9 polls. – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.