Rappler – Comelec’s Christian Lim faces graft complaint over 2015 Smartmatic deal

By Lian Buan | Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – A complaint for graft was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, September 4, against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Christian Lim.

Former Biliran representative Glenn Chong filed the graft complaint, with a provision asking Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to declare that there is probable cause for Lim to be impeached.

Asked why he did not just file an impeachment complaint before the House of Representatives, Chong said he’s giving Morales a chance to prove she does not practice selective justice.

“Obviously, Commissioner Lim is a lawyer of the Liberal Party (LP) before he became a commissioner, so he is ‘yellow.’ Let’s see if the Ombudsman will act on this complaint,” Chong told reporters.

Lim, however, was not a lawyer for the LP. He was linked to the former ruling party because he once belonged to election watchdog Bantay Balota, which supported the 2010 candidacy of former president Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Roxas II.

Morales has been repeatedly hit for supposed selective justice, particularly with the plunder cases of former senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, an Aquino appointee, is already facing an impeachment complaint at the House following the exposé of his estranged wife Patricia, who claimed he has P1 billion in unexplained wealth.

Smartmatic deal

The graft case was filed against Lim over a 2015 Comelec contract with Smartmatic.

Former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes signed a P240-million contract with Smartmatic in February 2015 for the diagnostics and minor repairs of around 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. This was in preparation for the 2016 elections.

The contract was disputed by groups who sought the intervention of the Supreme Court (SC).

Two months later or on April 21, 2015, the SC nullified the contract, saying that the poll body failed to justify the extended contract without public bidding.

“Walang bidding ‘yun and it was Christian Lim who privately negotiated with Smartmatic (There was no bidding for that and it was Christian Lim who privately negotiated with Smartmatic),” said Chong.

A plunder complaint was earlier filed against Brillantes and Lim before the Ombudsman over the same issue. Complainant Jing Paras, a member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), told reporters that Morales has sat on that complaint, with no update since June 2016.

The new complaint filed on Monday is meant to supplement the earlier plunder complaint, said Chong.

Lim’s vote on Smartmatic

The complaint also cites the reversal of Smartmatic’s disqualification, also in 2015.

“Lim unqualifiedly voted to grant the protest filed by the Smartmatic Joint Venture and overturned the disqualification,” reads part of Chong’s 19-page complaint.

In May 2015, the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) disqualified Smartmatic from bidding because the firm failed to submit Articles of Incorporation (AOI), and one of its demo units failed to meet a requirement to save election data in two storage devices at the same time.

But in June 2016, the Comelec en banc voted 4-2-1 to reverse the disqualification. Smartmatic was still eventually the technology provider for the 2016 polls.

Reached for comment, Lim told Rappler in a text message: “I’ll just file my answer in the appropriate forum.”

Chong and Paras said Lim could head the Comelec in the event that Bautista leaves the poll body. They said the complaint aims to prevent that from happening.

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