Poll body agrees to release money to debate organizer
MANILA, Philippnies — Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Saidamen Pangarungan and other poll body officials have approved the release of some P15 million in public funds to cover the money owed by Impact Hub, the organizer of the Comelec debates, to Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila.
Documents leaked to the media on Friday night showed that Director Frances Arabe of the Education and Information Department, signed a purchase request worth P15.3 million for Impact Hub as “high-level debate organizer.”
The said purchase request was for the last three Comelec-organized presidential and vice presidential debates, dubbed the “Pilipinas Debate 2022: The Turning Point,” on April 3, April 23, and April 24.
The voucher was recommended for approval by James Jimenez, spokesperson for the Comelec, and the same was “approved for purchase” by Pangarungan.
But apparently unaware of the request’s approval, Commissioner Rey Bulay asked the officials concerned to write their “honest and clear explanations” and send them to Pangarungan and the other commission members by Monday.
Aside from Arabe and Jimenez, other officials called on to explain were Executive Director Bartolome Sinocruz Jr., Deputy Executive Director for Operations Teopisto Elnas Jr., Deputy Executive Director for Administration Helen Flores, Director Maria Norina Casingal, and Director Martien Niedo.
In the memorandum dated April 22, Bulay questioned the presence of such a purchase request when Comelec debates “are supposed to be free as promised to all of Filipinos.”
Commissioners Bulay, Aimee Ferolino, and George Garcia earlier said in a press conference that no taxpayer money was spent for the Comelec-organized debates because the poll body was barred by law from covering the cost of the debates using public funds.
Impact Hub also confirmed on Saturday it had “misunderstandings” with Sofitel owner Philippine Plaza Holdings Inc., but the company’s lawyers Eirene Aguila and Gideon Peña declined to comment further.
The Filipino-owned company thanked the Comelec in the same statement for letting it be its production partner in the poll body’s first three debates that pushed through on March 19, March 20, and April 3.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.