Pay P1.8-M Storage, SC Tells Comelec

By Francisco Ricardo Garcia 

The Comelec must pay for the approximately P1.8 million for safekeeping the election materials and paraphernalia used in the May 2016 polls. 

The Supreme Court, sitting as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), issued this ruling after denying the Commission on Elections’ request for payment for at least 20 Philippine foreign posts, that commissioned warehouses to keep election materials and paraphernalia. The Comelec allegedly ordered the country’s diplomatic posts abroad not to return them to Manila (as yet).

The PET said Comelec reasoned out that the order was in compliance with the precautionary protection order (PPO) PET issued on July 12, 2016. “It had no basis,” PET said.

GMA News reported that the PPO was issued in line with the electoral protest filed by former Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.

"The PPO directed the Comelec and its agents to preserve and safeguard the integrity of the ballots and other paraphernalia used in the 2016 elections for the position of Vice President. There is nothing in the PPO that prohibited the physical transfer of the election materials and paraphernalia; the Comelec was merely required to preserve and safeguard their integrity," the PET said in a resolution dated October 10.

"On several occasions" since the PPO was issued, the Comelec had moved and transferred election materials and paraphernalia covered by the order after securing permission from the tribunal.

"As to why it would treat differently the materials and paraphernalia in the custody of the posts escapes this Tribunal as the PPO did not make such distinction.”

PET said the Comelec could have secured permission for the transfer of these to the Comelec Central Office. There was “no such request," the resolution read.

The resolution stemmed from the July 10, 2017 letter of Director Maria Lea Alarkon of the Comelec Office for Overseas Voting forwarding to the PET requests for payment of storage facilities and other expenses from Philippine foreign posts including Hong Kong (HK$90,000 or P596,700) and New York (US$24,768.50 or P1,263,193.50).

In his comment, Marcos said the Comelec had the duty to safeguard the integrity of the election materials and paraphernalia. He also said that under the 2010 PET Rules such expenses could not be charged against his cash deposit.

The tribunal agreed with Marcos' view, saying ordering Marcos to pay for such expenses was unwarranted since he did not ask to prevent the poll body from removing the materials from the foreign posts.

Marcos’ camp welcomed the PET resolution.

Marcos lost to Robredo by 263,473 votes in the May 2016 elections, which the former senator claimed was marred by fraud. — With report from GMA News


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