Malfunction and corruption
Sharp Edges

Malfunction and corruption

/ 05:30 AM March 19, 2024

A recent hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms uncovered a squirming mass of controversies surrounding the selection of Miru Systems, the lone bidder in Comelec’s procurement process for the 2025 midterm elections.

It’s rare to see lawmakers from across the political spectrum agreeing on anything, but every single member of the panel present at the hearing expressed their apprehension over Miru’s questionable track record and Comelec’s inappropriate efforts to cover it.

There is a lot to unpack from that hearing. An irate Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro blasted the South Korean provider for “malfunction and corruption,” as he sums up Miru’s massive technical failures in Iraq and Congo, and its bribery scandal in South Korea, Argentina, and Kyrgyzstan.

At one point, he bristled when the only Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo who attended the hearing saying that the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) did not disqualify Miru despite the widespread reports of technical failures and corruption because these were just “mere allegations.”

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“But you have disqualified Smartmatic on mere allegations,” a livid Rodriguez said. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”. He recounted his stint with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), which dismissed more than 30 election protests, as the count of Smartmatic AES “reflected the true will of the people.”

He would later erupt in anger at some Comelec personnel in the gallery for their seeming levity, admonishing the offenders by saying that the discussion was no laughing matter. “One bidder is not bidding,” Rodriguez reminded everyone.

For his part, Congressman Egmidio “Dino” Tanjuatco from the 2nd district of Rizal decried Comelec Chairman Garcia’s repeated snubbing of the hearing and the conspicuous absence of Miru. The lawmaker went so far as to call out the “disrespect” behind the snub.

 “If the Comelec and the provider cannot give importance to the values of transparency, truthfulness, and integrity, then we have a problem,” Tanjuatco said.

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Party list Representative France Castro bewailed how Comelec had seemingly tailor-fitted the bid for Miru’s taking. “We have been advising Comelec to check the background and track record of Miru. They ignored us. Are you blind to Miru’s track record?” the ACT Teachers representative lamented. 

Only the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) came in defense of Comelec and Miru systems in that hearing.

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All eyes on Zubiri’s promise on Senate’s RBH6 this month

The controversial RBH7 is now on plenary session of the House of Representatives, on time to make its formal approval before the Holy Week. In the Senate, public hearings continue, and doubts are strong that RBH6 or RBH 7 will be “buried” there.

But the President included both Senate President Migs Zubiri and House Speaker Martin Romualdez in his official delegation to Germany and Czechoslovakia. The obvious reason of course, is to reconcile both Houses and agree on RBH 7 in time for a plebiscite within the year or simultaneous with the midterm elections next year. And judging from media reports, it suggests there was an agreement and perhaps a “temporary truce”. 

But for Zubiri, the challenge is too great because he needs the vote of two thirds of the Senate or 19 out of 24 senators  to approve the proposed economic amendments to the 1987 Constitution. So far, only Senators Nancy Binay, Win Gatchalian, Robin Padilla, Loren Legarda, Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid are said to be in favor but with conditions. Senators Imee Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Risa Hontiveros, JV Ejercito, Joel Villanueva is against. Still unknown are Duterte senators Bong Go and Bato de la Rosa, Senator Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla.

If Zubiri fails to convince his colleagues before Holy Week comes in, then the day of reckoning will fire up both chambers of Congress into a possible constitutional crisis.

It also becomes possible that the dreaded “people’s initiative” will be resurrected and seriously harm the existence of the Upper Chamber.

But of course, we will continue watching the developing Senate scenarios.

Destroying PCSO in “aid of legislation”

I have been watching in awe the numerous hearings conducted by the Senate committee on Games and Amusements joint with the Committee on Ways and Means  on the “Integrity and Trustworthiness of the PCSO Lotto Games” and its  Prize fund tax remittances.

The investigation “in aid of legislation” started more than a year ago, February 13, September 27 in 2023,  and this year 2024, on January 25, February 1, and yesterday, March 18. With all high officials of the PCSO under fire, the probe brought into national attention several allegations, including assumptions short of click-baiting in social media. In fact, PCSO in the spirit of transparency, submitted its own lotto records to the committee as requested. And these are the new items coming up.  But so far, I have not heard of any instance of serious charges of graft and corruption discovered that could warrant the filing of formal charges against PCSO chairman Junie Cua, GM Mel Robles or other PCSO officials.

I remember the elongated and circuitous 2015 Senate Blue Ribbon probes  during the time of then VP Jejomar Binay that reached a total of 23 hearings, just enough to throw out his presidential chances and at the same time boost the popularity of his senator accusers. 

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But this time, the credibility and existence of PCSO as a profitable charity source for the lowly masses is in grave danger. This may lead to lesser lotto sales that will eventually reduce benefits to its poor beneficiaries.  These senators should hasten the probe to its logical conclusion by, filing appropriate cases and then move on to the next anomalies, if any.

TAGS: Comelec, House, opinion

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