Gus Lagman leaving Comelec

Posted at 04/17/12 1:02 PM

Blames Enrile factor, anti-PCOS stand for ouster

MANILA, Philippines - Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Augusto Lagman said on Tuesday that he has been informed by Malacañang that he will be removed from the poll body instead of being made to go through the Commission on Appointments (CA).

“Nasabihan naman ako nung Friday yata yun. Medyo nagliligpit na ako ng gamit ko,” he told radio dzMM.

He did not say who told him about the Palace decision.

Lagman, who has served as poll commissioner for 10 only  months, said news that he was being sacked came ahead of his scheduled confirmation before the CA.

He said it was common knowledge that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile would reject his confirmation because of accusations that Lagman, who was part of the National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), allegedly had a hand in the rigging of vote results in the 1987 elections.

There were 24 Senate seats in the 1987 polls. Enrile came last. He almost lost to 25th placer, Augusto Sanchez, who briefly served as Cory Aquino's labor minister.

“Mayroon siyang akusasyon sa akin at sa Namfrel na nadaya daw sila nung 1987. Dahil dun, naisip ng Malacañang na wag na lang ako i-appoint para di na ako dumaan sa confirmation process para i-reject. Yun ang katotohanan,” he said.

'No conspiracy'

Lagman said he would have wanted to face the CA so he could answer Enrile’s accusation after 25 years.

He denied that Namfrel conspired with Comelec to add 2 million votes to senatorial candidates backed by then President Cory Aquino. He said the conspiracy theory would mean that then-Comelec chairman Ramon Felipe, Commissioner Haydee Yorac and then-Namfrel chairman Christian Monsod knew about the rigging of the votes.

He also said that both Enrile and Joseph Estrada won in the 1987 election. “If they were cheated, they should not have won,” he said.

He rejected claims that Enrile has diskettes that allegedly show how Namfrel rigged the votes.

A casualty of PCOS controversy?

Lagman said he does not know if his ouster is connected to the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona amid reports that Malacañang is wooing Enrile’s vote.

He said his ouster could also be linked to his opposition to Comelec’s plan to purchase 82,000 second-hand Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2010 elections.

He said it is possible that current Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes no longer wanted him in the poll body because of his opposition to the PCOS purchase.

“Mas pwede ko pang paniwalaan ay nagdissent ako sa option to purchase the PCOS machines. Kasi yung timing e…,” he said.

Lagman said the decision to purchase the PCOS machines violates the procurement law because it did not undergo public bidding.

'Procurement law violated'

He said the opinion of the government policy procurement board states that Comelec should not have purchased the machines.

Lagman said some of the poll commissioners cited lack of time and funds and ease of use of the Smartmatic-TIM machines as the reason to buy them. He noted, however, that there were many technical glitches that Smartmatic-TIM had yet to fix.

He also found it questionable that thousands of compact flash (CF) cards were replaced a week before the 2010 elections. He said the decision to change the CF cards was unheard of in a major IT project, particularly for a nationwide election.

On the issue of money, he said he actually talked to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) about getting more funds to buy better vote-counting machines.

“I asked DBM if we could get more money and they said there is more money. I don’t know why it is not being pursued. I brought the Comelec people to DBM to find out about it but my proposal was ignored,” he said.