By Dona Z. Pazzibugan | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has signed with a company linked to a close associate of President Rodrigo Duterte the contract to distribute the ballots, vote-counting machines, and other supplies for the May 9, 2022, elections.
Comelec and F2 Logistics Philippines Inc., a cargo forwarder linked to Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, signed on Oct. 29 the deal worth P536 million, according to a copy of the contract posted on Sunday on the poll body’s website.
It was signed by Comelec Chair Sheriff Abas and F2 Logistics president Efren Uy.
Since Comelec awarded the contract to F2 Logistics last August, poll watchdogs and critics have questioned a possible conflict of interest in entrusting the transportation of election equipment and supplies to a major campaign donor of President Duterte.
Dennis Uy is chair of F2 Logistics. In a Senate inquiry in 2019, the Davao-based businessman admitted donating P30 million to Mr. Duterte’s presidential bid in 2016.
According to documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was one of the original incorporators of F2 Logistics, which was founded in 2006. It is a subsidiary of Uy’s holding firm Udenna Corp., which is currently embroiled in the controversial purchase of the Malampaya natural gas project.
The Comelec contract was initially reported to cost P1.6 billion, which was triple the final contract price of P536 million.
Under the deal, F2 Logistics will be responsible for the delivery of all automated election system-related equipment, forms and supplies not only for the elections but for field tests.
F2 Logistics will deploy from and bring back to the central warehouse the vote counting machines (VCM), consolidation or canvassing system machines, transmission devices, VCM external batteries; generator sets and other election paraphernalia.
It will also deploy the official ballots, ballot boxes, election forms and supplies, training materials and computerized voters’ lists to be used on election day.
The company will likewise provide and secure provincial warehouses or local hubs for the VCMs prior to their scheduled distribution to polling centers.
Under the contract, F2 Logistics is prohibited from bumping off, refusing to deliver or halting Comelec cargoes in transit unless due to “force majeure or fortuitous event.”
F2 Logistics is also required to have an internet-based tracking or monitoring system for the delivery of the election equipment and supplies.
The company committed to transport election supplies to the Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions for P106 million; to Metro Manila, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Bicol for P123 million; to the Visayas regions for P121 million and to the Mindanao regions for P186 million.
Comelec’s special bids and awards committee last Aug. 24 declared that F2 Logistics gave the lowest bid in the public bidding.
The Comelec’s policy-making body issued the notice of award on Sept. 15.
After news came out that F2 Logistics won, the Comelec stood by its decision to award the contract.
Abas and Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said Dennis Uy’s ties to the President were not a ground to disqualify the company.
“It’s not automatic that he is disqualified because he was a contributor. We know that many businessmen are major contributors to different (politicians) so it’s not automatic” they are disqualified from Comelec contracts, Abas had said.
“Does it mean we will have to disqualify the companies that donate to winning candidates? That is not right. That will make us biased if we refuse to award projects to companies just because they donated to campaigns,” Guanzon had said.
“There are fears of some people about the awarding of the contract to F2 Logistics. Our [special bids and awards committee] is reviewing and following the procedures under the law so I don’t see any problem if it is awarded to F2 Logistics as long as we follow the law,” Comelec Commissioner Aimee Ferolino also told reporters then.