ELECTIONS 2022: COMELEC commissioner pushes for temporary relief of officials

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES - 2022/02/18: The front facade of the Comelec main building in Intramuros. (Photo by Josefiel Rivera/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
MANILA, PHILIPPINES - 2022/02/18: The front facade of the Comelec main building in Intramuros. (Photo by Josefiel Rivera/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Rey Bulay has recommended that Director Frances Arabe and spokesperson James Jimenez be temporarily relieved from media relations duties after the canceled final Pilipinas 2022 Debates conflict.

In a statement on Friday (April 29), Bulay, who heads the task force investigating the debate issue, made the recommendation to Comelec Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan after they “found reasonable cause to commence a formal fact-finding and administrative disciplinary investigation."

To continue the duties of directors Arabe and Jimenez, who is also a director in the COMELEC Education and Information Department (EID), Bulay recommended temporary replacements for their role.

“To prevent disruption in the essential election operations, the elections being a few days away, Directors Jimenez and Arabe were recommended to continue other functions under the supervision of their committee heads,” Bulay said in a statement.

The COMELEC official confirmed that he submitted his recommendation to Chairman Saidamen Pangarungan on Wednesday.

“Yesterday, April 28, 2022, after a discussion on their preliminary findings, the Task Force found reasonable cause to commence a formal fact-finding and administrative disciplinary investigation, and to include the Director of the Personnel Department in the Task Force, considering that COMELEC personnel are involved, and to ensure the observance of due process, and a thorough, proper, fair and impartial probe,” Bulay added.

The official added that he cannot release information on the issue while the investigation is ongoing to “avoid trial by publicity and preserve the dignity of the procedures.”

COMELEC had to postpone its final debates scheduled on April 23 and 24 after event organizer Impact Hub Manila, the company behind Vote Pilipinas, reportedly failed to pay around ₱14 million to Sofitel, the event's venue. Impact Hub's total contract with Sofitel is ₱20.5 million for five debates.

Commissioner George Garcia earlier claimed that the commissioners only learned about the issue too late when a Sofitel representative sought help in collecting the amounts owed to them.

However, a March 31 letter from Sofitel addressed to Jimenez showed he was informed weeks earlier that there were issues regarding the payments. Jimenez assumed then that the event organizer will honor its payment deadlines.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom.

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