political party accuses COMELEC and Customs of corruption, perfect
instruments for cheating and raising funds for the 2016 elections
By Partido Lakas ng Masa
August 27, 2015
QUEZON CITY –
Successive protest actions were held today at the offices of the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC)
under what protestors dubbed as the start of a series of “Tour to
Expose Corruption” in line with the 2016 elections. The said agencies
were accused of being “institutionally corrupt and are perfect
instruments for cheating and raising funds for the coming elections.”
The protest action was
initiated by Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM), a political party of the
marginalized sectors. Among its affiliates are the Bukluran ng
Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), the Kongreso ng Pagkakaisa ng Maralitang
Lungsod and the Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Transportasyon.
“As the campaign fever rises
by the day, we fear that the probability of holding clean and honest
elections also fades by the day,” said Sonny Melencio, chairperson of
Highly Probable Collusion
Melencio explained that,
“The P300-million midnight deal between Smartmatic and the COMELEC for
the diagnostics and repair of 82,000 PCOS machines that was declared
void by the Supreme Court was already a red flag, and yet no reforms
were implemented and no transparent and upgraded mechanisms were put
in place to ensure the COMELEC deals were in the best interest of the
“Negotiators of Smartmatic
must be the luckiest people on earth for monopolizing
billions-of-pesos worth of contracts from the COMELEC in the past
three months,” he said.
Smartmatic was recently
awarded a P7.86-billion lease contract by the COMELEC for 90,977
optical mark reader machines (OMRs), on top of the 23,000 OMRs already
awarded to it early this year at the cost of P1.72 billion.
Melencio noted that after
the voiding of the P300-million refurbishment deal, the COMELEC’s
budget for the refurbishment of the PCOS machines, including
consumables and the official ballots, was adjusted twice from P2.88
billion to P3.13 billion. Smartmatic refused to re-bid. Surprisingly,
COMELEC nullified the remaining bid by the Dermalog, Avante & Stone of
David group, leaving no takers for the refurbishment contract. There
was an alarming change of mind by the Commissioners who dropped the
idea of refurbishing the 82,000 warehoused PCOS machines in favor of
leasing a new set of 93,977 OMRs. All these seemed ridiculously
tailor-fitted for the interests of Smartmatic.
Melencio demanded that the
COMELEC explain thoroughly to the public the sudden change of plans
and explain why it was more beneficial and cost effective to the
tax-paying public to lease new machines instead of using the old ones.
He also lobbied for a holistic review of all Comelec decisions since
2010, as well as the inclusion of representatives of civil society and
peoples’ organizations in the entire electoral process being
undertaken by COMELEC to ensure transparency and people’s trust in the
“The COMELEC has failed in
extinguishing doubts on the reliability of the PCOS machines since the
2010 elections, and the lack of transparency in its operations has
fueled the suspicion of many, experts and skeptics alike, that
something was wrong with the machines,” he lamented.
Motive behind the Balikbayan
The PLM likewise held a
demonstration at the BoC office in Port Area calling for Customs Chief
Bert Lina’s resignation. They accused Lina of using his position to
influence tariff and custom measures to gain undue advantage over his
competition in the forwarding and freight business. On top of that,
Lina treated OFWs as “mere collateral damage” in the competition
between these companies in the logistics industry.
“Lina is misleading the
public by declaring that he is just out to implement and upgrade the
Customs rules, when his only intention is to give his previously owned
companies advantage over competition,” Melencio declared.
“The processing of cargoes
is already stiff, but his order for mandatory inspections will further
impede the forwarders’ operations. This in turn will force its clients
to find more reliable, prudent and punctual forwarding services. And
Lina’s companies would be it. This is plain and simple harassment of
Lina’s business rivals,” he averred.
Lina, together with his wife
Sylvia, is chairman and major stockholder of 19 companies under the
Lina Group of Companies which spans from logistics to solar energy and
waste management. Among them are Airfreight 2100 Inc., Air2100 Inc.,
Cargohaus Inc., U-Freight Philippines Inc., and U-Ocean Inc., all
doing business with the BoC.
Upon accepting the
appointment as Customs chief last April, Lina declared that he would
divest himself of all business interests as they are in obvious
conflict with his public office. But up to now, no public announcement
by concerned agencies has been made on the status of his divestments.
The group believes that
Lina’s companies were sold to lesser know associates or even to
dummies so that he may buy them back after Aquino’s term ends in 2016,
similar to what he did in 2005 when he resigned as Customs chief from
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Cabinet and joined the Hyatt 10.
Despite Lina’s lion share of
the market, the PLM deems that he is “going in for the kill – a move
to monopolize the entire forwarding industry before President Noynoy
Aquino steps down from office”.
Lina is believed to be one
of the major contributors in the campaign of Aquino when he ran in
2010. PLM fears that Lina will most likely contribute to the campaign
kitty of the Aquino-endorsed candidacy of Mar Roxas in the 2016
elections for as long as the Palace supports the scheme of the Customs
The group likewise concluded
that the BoC has always been suspected as fund-raiser for
administration parties. The previous Customs commissioner himself,
John Philip Sevilla, had resigned from his post after accusing the
supporters, allies and loyalists of President Aquino of pressuring him
to make Customs a milking cow for 2016. Sevilla later on retracted his
statement. “It is however an open secret that Customs posts are
generally awarded to campaign financiers and supporters,” Melencio
“Not unless the bata-bata
system is completely quashed that we will have a Customs free of graft
and bureaucratic wranglings,” Melencio added.
Meanwhile Leody de Guzman of
the militant BMP scoffed at the recent announcement of the Palace to
no longer subject Balikbayan boxes to random inspection when their
scheme was to support Lina’s plan to subject all shipments to
“Is this how the Aquino
government treats its “Bagong Bayani”? Malacanang’s support for Lina
is a testament of how this government treats the OFWs, as collateral
damage in Lina’s pursuit to monopolize the freight forwarding
industry,” he said.
The BMP laments that Aquino
not only failed to attribute and express gratitude to more than ten
million Filipinos abroad for their remittances in his last SONA but
also treats them as mere “collateral damage”.