2022 Philippine Elections

[OPINION] Red alert! Can we be cheated out of our May 9 vote?

Gina Ordonez
[OPINION] Red alert! Can we be cheated out of our May 9 vote?
'F2 logistics is chaired by Davao-based Dennis Uy, longtime friend and partner of Rodrigo Duterte, who contributed a cool P30 million to Duterte’s campaign chest'

In the glaring light of day, and despite pundits and alarm bells ringing, F2 Logistics is now in charge of our ballot and all that goes with it, courtesy of the Comelec.  Last November the company signed a P536-million contract with Comelec Commissioner Sheriff Abbas for preparations of the election machinery. 

Under this arrangement, what can we see?  F2 will take care of forward and reverse logistics for the equipment related to the automated election system.  What else? F2 will take care of the vote-counting machines, transmission equipment, and other devices during that period. What else?  F2 will distribute and deliver the official ballots, ballot boxes, voters’ lists, and other election-related supplies nationwide.

What, among others, could happen? The possible delay in delivery of election paraphernalia, especially in remote areas with poor communication, leading to the failure of timely, clean, and honest election results. Not to mention the nightmare of the vote count being rigged in favor of pre-selected candidates. 

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What has happened?  Various election watchdog groups, like Kontra Daya, PPCRV, and Lente, who requested observation and monitoring of the initial election preparation processes to ensure the sanctity of the ballot, were denied their right to do so, contrary to the law on Automated Elections, see R.A. 8436, Sections 7, 9, and 10.

Being concerned about possible fraud, they complained to the Senate last March 9. They said that even if a lockdown was in place, Comelec could have conducted livestreaming of the operations to ensure transparency.  Unfortunately, by that time, Comelec disclosed that two thirds (2/3) or 43 million of the 65 million ballots, had already been printed, with 32%, or about 20 million, being sent for packing and shipping.  Of course even the senators were upset. 

That has been corrected.  But too late?  Comelec has finally given permission for the election monitoring groups to go to the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse to check the election paraphernalia and the National Printing Office (NPO) in Quezon City, but can they still check the integrity of the system since bulk of the preparatory work has been accomplished? Could we have been robbed of due diligence?

Is there still time to check and counter-check that no hanky panky in this automated election exercise has taken place?  Between April 2 to April 19, voting machines and laptops will be deployed, and from April 20 to May 5, ballots will be transported. Per Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, F2 Logistics will transport the VCMs from the Sta. Rosa warehouse to different local hubs across the country for temporary storage pending their distribution to the various polling centers before election day.  He assures us that after delivery, VCMs undergo final testing and sealing up to three days before election day, so…”we know if the VCMs are working properly.” He assures us that F2 as the logistics provider “will not affect election results.”  Really?

And who is behind all this?  F2 logistics, which the Comelec said it trusted to handle our automated election system, is the firm that became Comelec’s nationwide courier for the 2018 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, bagging P37.4 million worth of contracts.  F2 also secured two of four delivery contracts for the 2019 polls worth P391 million.  And now they are back in a government contract with a maximum contract price of P1.6 billion for bidders. And F2 is willing to take on this job for 1/3 the price of P536 million?  There must be something wrong here. 

F2 logistics is chaired by Davao-based Dennis Uy, longtime friend and partner of Rodrigo Duterte, who contributed a cool P30 million to Duterte’s campaign chest when he ran for president, with another P5 million allegedly from his brother and sister.  

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F2 is a subsidiary of Chelsea Logistics under its mother Udenna Group of Companies, which Dennis Uy chairs.  When Udenna started in 2015 it had P31 billion in assets, including Phoenix Petroleum to which Duterte was a signatory before he became president.  Those assets ballooned over the past six years to P310 billion in assets in 2020, exponentially growing 10 times over; meanwhile, their debt grew even faster, from P22 billion to P255 billion in 2020.  

Where did the money come from?  How did Uy manage to access huge loans from a consortium of Chinese and other foreign banks?  Those loans, $4 billion plus, covered for the set-up and operation of Dito Telecomms and another $1 billion for Malampaya.  Dito is supposedly in partnership with China Telecom (another red light) in challenging PLDT and Globe’s market share for the telecoms business, and Udenna Malampaya took over under our noses the sudden buyout from Chevron and Shell for the gas-to-power Malampaya project in Palawan, which handles over one-fifth of our gas supply.  

When questioned about the latter, the President came quickly to the defense of his buddy Dennis Uy as being “above board,” though Udenna had no experience in the gas field business. 

So, F2 being under the direct supervision and management discretion of the Comelec, may end up just following the bidding of their mutual bosses, nicknamed here as Dut-Uy.  Not hard to suspect a type of collusion between F2 Logistics and the Comelec.

This tandem does not bode well for our election counting, especially since the latter is filled with presidential appointees, four from Davao, two from Duterte’s San Beda alma mater, and one from Manila (former lawyer to Marcos Jr.’s electoral protest). Past stories of preferred Davao appointees reflect loyalty and obedience surpassing objective and rational righteous thinking.  For a reward perhaps.

We may all be high on pink, but let’s not forget that the stronger color red, as in red alert, can be critical. – Rappler.com 

Senior citizen Gina Ordonez is still a passionate activist despite her years. A former MBM/MBA professor at the Asian Institute of Management and DLSU Taft, she retired as a consultant-trainer in Org & Mgmt Dev for international funding agencies, NGOs, and corporates. She has two grandsons in her care.