Want to live in high style? Join Comelec, lawmakers learnBy Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Expensive beds and curtains. New cars. And junkets, too. It must really be more fun in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
At a budget hearing Wednesday, senators wondered whether the poll body was now a favored lifestyle destination after Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano reported the purchase of “luxurious” beds and furnishings worth P7 million to refurbish the Comelec’s summer cottages in Baguio, and P7 million more for new vehicles.
Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the finance committee, also questioned a proposed P21-million allotment for “honoraria” to supervise overseas voting, saying it “appears to be for junkets abroad” come 2013.
“This cannot be a tourism project,” Drilon quipped.
The Comelec is asking for an P8.4-billion budget next year, most of which would be spent for the 2013 national and local elections.
At the hearing, Cayetano held up a copy of a notice of award dated Feb. 21, 2012, showing the purchase of seven king-size beds worth P91,250 each and 17 queen-size beds at P84,600 each and other furnishings meant for the Comelec’s summer cottages in Baguio City.
Slept in the king-size bed
In the hot seat, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes admitted having used one of the king-size beds but noted that it did not appear to be worth as much as Cayetano had said.
The senator said Brillantes should have been aware of the purchases since records showed he joined the Comelec en banc when approving these purchases.
The copy of the notice provided by Cayetano indicated that Paula’s Furniture based in Sto. Domingo, Angeles City, also won the bid for 20 sets of double deck beds with mattresses (P15,840 each); a rectangular dining set (P74,180); a round dining set (P78,000); three reception tables with chairs (P15,680 each); 30 accent chairs with armrests (P17,280 each), and three living room sets (P59,780 each).
A separate notice showed that the Comelec also purchased “blinds” worth P340,552.35 and “curtains” worth P694,589.72 totaling more than P1 million from Raddy’s Construction and Supply in Pasig City.
Cayetano said he would also provide documents showing the Comelec purchased a Toyota Camry, now being used by Brillantes, and other vehicles.
In all, the senator alleged in an ambush interview later that the Comelec spent P7 million for household items now in the cottages of its Baguio summer compound, along with P7 million for new vehicles.
Cayetano wants Brillantes to explain the purchases when the Comelec makes a second presentation of its budget later this month.
Rarely used cottages
Cayetano said he found it incongruent that the Comelec had purchased these expensive items for its “rarely used” Baguio summer cottages while Brillantes continued to complain that his agency did not have enough funds.
Cayetano even showed photos of cheaper beds available in the market to approximate the ones allegedly used in Comelec’s Baguio enclave.
“Anyone who looks at the Internet would see beds like that kind worth only P7,800 each and the mattress appear to be not even worth P5,000,” he later told reporters.
“Double beds at P15,000 each is still okay. But all in all, P7 million in expenses for the commissioners’ cottages,” Cayetano gasped.
In case the Senate detects an overprice in the household items, Brillantes would have to explain why these should not be classified as “extravagant,” Cayetano added.
“If you can buy a P15,000 bed that doesn’t look bad at all, why buy one that is P91,000? That’s the people’s money! Besides, P7 million for cottages could have been used for 20 to 25 new classrooms,” Cayetano added.
Cordillera election officials said the summer cottages, which were inaugurated in April this year, served the seven Comelec commissioners when holding summer sessions in Baguio City.
Much like the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals, which hold sessions in Baguio from April to May, Comelec held en banc sessions in the city this year, said lawyer Julius Torres, Comelec-Cordillera director.