Thursday, October 02, 2008

Senate uncovers COMELEC's P5-B unliquidated cash advances

Senate uncovers COMELEC's P5-B unliquidated cash advances

abs-cbnNEWS.com | 10/02/2008 10:20 PM

Tables were turned Thursday when officials of the Commission on Elections tasked to defend the agency's request for additional budget became the subject of senators' questioning after it was found out that the COMELEC had almost P5 billion in unliquidated cash advances since 1984.

This prompted finance sub-committee chairman Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to question COMELEC Chairman Jose Melo about the unliquidated cash advances until 2007.

"What I heard is that even those officials guilty of unliquidated cash advances are still being given cash advance which should not be," the senator said.

Melo, however, defended himself and the current batch of COMELEC officials.

"That was before our time...we will refer this to [the] Ombudsman for prosecution," he said.

Santiago likewise grilled the COMELEC officials present for a Makati Regional Trial Court judge's ruling that gave "due course" to the petition of Mega-Pacific eSolutions, Inc., to delay the return of P1 billion in funds paid by the elections body for the automated counting machines that were never used for the national polls in 2004.

It was learned that the lower court's decision contravened a ruling by the Supreme Court that voided the contract between the COMELEC and Mega-Pacific.

"The Supreme Court had already ruled... that's anomalous," Santiago said.

The COMELEC, meanwhile, said it will file a motion before the Supreme Court for summary judgment that would order Mega-Pacific to refund the agency's money.

At the same time, the elections body proposed a P21-billion supplemental budget for the automation of the presidential elections in 2010.

Committee member Sen. Richard Gordon said this may be feasible since the House appropriations committee has agreed to it.

Santiago, however, said the proposal was overpriced.

"It's just too expensive for a developing country," she said, adding that some basic services may be put aside if the lawmakers agree to the COMELEC's budget request. With a report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News

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