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Criminal waste of public money

I HAVE been asking myself: Why is nobody accepting the invitation of Secretary Manuel Roxas II to be his running mate? Roxas is the anointed one of President Benigno Aquino III.

Not Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares, who obviously believes that she herself can become President with Senator Chiz Escudero as her running mate. Her body language says it all—she walks with confidence, waving to the public like a sure winner.

Not Batangas Governor Vilma Santos, whose husband Senator Ralph Recto would rather have her continue as leader of the province. Vilma could be a possible winner with all the Vilmanians cheering her on.

Not Rep. Leni Robredo, whose head is still in the right place. She knows her limitations. She would rather continue to be congresswoman for the third district of Camarines Sur, or perhaps, run for the Senate. In the first place, what are her credentials to become vice president? Is the death of her husband Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo a ticket to the vice presidency?

My grandson answered my question: Because Mar Roxas is not “winnable.”  If he goes down, his running mate will likely lose, as well.

As the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy approaches, the President and Mar may have to settle with a member of the administration coalition, like Alan Peter Cayetano, a Nacionalista. But, then, there’s Senator Bongbong Marcos, another NP, who is also running for the presidency.

Or, Marcos may just settle as the running mate of Vice President Jejomar Binay—a winning combination.

Abangan.

* * *

So, Senator Antonio Trillanes is not so holy after all. Trillanes tries to convince us that he is immaculate when  he accuses the Vice President and his family of corruption and ill-gotten wealth.

But now we hear that the Commission on Audit has found out that the senator has hired his brother as his consultant, with a salary of P71,200 a month. This means that the brother raked in P427,000 from July to December 2014. And to think that his other consultants get only as much as P3,500 a  month. Trillanes has a total of 55 consultants, my gulay. What do they do? Carry his briefcase or polish his shoes?

The COA found that Trillanes pays his consultants way higher than the Senate budget allows.

The finger of blame points to Senate President Franklin Drilon who approves all this abuse and misuse of the people’s money.

Santa Banana, the work of all these consultants cannot even be ascertained, much less justified, because their services are considered “confidential in nature.” What bull.

For a body like the Senate which readily investigates members of the Executive and the Judiciary on alleged anomalies, it’s the height of hypocrisy. It turns out that the Senate itself misuses and abuses the people’s money.

Drilon has a lot of explaining to do.

***

Senator Koko Pimentel should put into action his statement about requiring the previous leadership of the Commission on Elections to explain why it took more than a year to decide on the upgrade and refurbishment of 81,896 units of the Precinct Count Optical Scan machines purchased from Smartmatic-TIM in 2012 for billions of pesos. The machines were used in the 2013 elections.

It now appears that Smartmatic had an extended warranty offer for the repair and refurbishment. The poll body dilly-dallied for more than a year on the matter.

And then, Comelec, under former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., signed a negotiated contract with Smartmatic-TIM on Jan. 30, 2015—two days before Brillantes retired from his post. With this, Brillantes  exhibited his  undying love for the Venezuelan service provider. Fortunately, the Supreme Court voided the contract for violating the law on public bidding.

The delay in the upgrade and refurbishment of the old PCOS machines resulted in a tight time frame for the preparations for the May 2016 polls. Now, the Comelec is  forced to lease 93,977 new Optical Mark Reader machines for use in the automated elections next year at a cost of more than P7.928 billion.

My gulay, those old PCOS machines cost taxpayers more than P9.322 billion. These are now sitting idly in a warehouse in Laguna and the government is reportedly paying P800,000 a month in storage fee, or a total of P21.6 million for the 27 months of storage from June 2013 to August this year.

If the Comelec under Brillantes had only acted with urgency, those PCOS machines could have been put in proper condition and upgraded if necessary for use in next year’s elections. And the Comelec could save us the P7.928 billion that it will pay Smartmatic for the lease of those new OMRs.

Recall that the Comelec did not go through the procedural rigmarole. It  consulted its legal department on the extended warranty offer, conducted bids for the upgrade and refurbishment of the old machines, disqualified bidders, reduced the bid price, then increased the bid price to a level even higher than the original amount, declared two failures of bidding and finally scrapped the budget altogether. The convenient excuse: lack of time to put the PCOS machines in proper condition.

Now, the Comelec finds itself under intense fire for what it failed to do, and for what it is doing. The fact is, people suspect that all its moves are scripted. Note that despite having been disqualified a number of times in public biddings, Smartmatic had time and again emerged as eventual and consistent  winners of those Comelec projects that netted it billions of pesos.

Significantly, and although they voted for it, newly-appointed Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Sheriff Abas expressed reservations about the Comelec decision, saying they voted with great sadness and a heavy heart.

Are we supposed to believe them?

I have long suspected an unholy alliance between Comelec insiders and the Venezuelan company.

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