By Mikhail Flores, VERA Files
The Commission on Elections has asked a Laguna court to let it take over a warehouse storing poll automation machines for the 2013 elections.
Elections Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said Comelec filed two suits in a Biñan court seeking to expropriate the warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna that houses the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines the poll body had bought from Smartmatic.
The poll body went to court after it failed to reach an agreement with Power Serve Inc. (PSI), a vehicle and appliance assembly firm that holds the long-term lease to the property.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes said the commission only wants a seven months’ rental, or until June, with the option to extend, but PSI was insisting on a 39-month contract or three years and three months.
Lim said, “We’re asking for an order (to) be issued that we be placed in possession. We couldn’t agree. We don’t have time. We can’t move the machines out of the area.”
He said the Comelec has deposited P44.8 million with the court as part of the expropriation procedures. The amount is equivalent to seven months of rental payment.
Republic Act 8974 or the law on the acquisition for government projects requires a government institution to pay the full amount of the property or the lease during a takeover.
Brilliantes said last week the Comelec deployed 12 members of its own security force and other enforcement agencies to secure the warehouse after PSI dropped hints of eviction.
“Pinararamdaman ko lang…na hindi nila kaming pwedeng i-threaten (We had to show them that we couldn’t be threatened),” he said.
The Comelec also said national interest must be put above business interests.
“Malulugi raw sila. E kami naman hindi naman kami malulugi pero nakataya ang buong Pilipinas (They said they’d lose money. In our case, it’s the entire country that stands to lose),” Brillantes said.
Comelec plans to build its own warehouse after the May 2013 elections.
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")