Comelec: No obligation to pay alleged ₱15-M debt to elections debate contractor

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 16) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Tuesday said it has no pending amount to settle with its contractor for the 2022 debate.

“To the best of our understanding and best of our reading of the contract, wala naman po tayong (we don't have any) obligation,” Comelec chairman George Garcia told CNN Philippine’ The Source.

On Monday, the Comelec said it received on May 8 a copy of the "final demand" letter from Impact Hub Manila, urging the commission to pay its alleged unsettled liability amounting to ₱15.3 million. This is in relation to the agreement signed by the two parties for the conduct of the Pilipinas Debates during the 2022 polls.

“Despite our client’s repeated demands, both verbally and via email, the claims have remained unpaid. As such, please consider this as the final demand to coordinate and set a meeting with us to discuss the settlement of the outstanding balance,” the April 27 letter read.

The company warned it will implement legal remedies if the amount is not settled.

Garcia maintained that the poll body has no pending obligations with Impact Hub Manila.

“Public funds po ito… and therefore we have to protect it at all costs over our dead bodies because people’s fund po ito and therefore subject ito sa pinaka-stringent rules on auditing, rules on the disposal of this public fund,” he pointed out.

[Translation: These are public funds, and therefore we have to protect it at all costs over our dead bodies because these are the people’s fund and therefore this is subject to the most stringent auditing rules, rules on the disposal of this public fund.]

“At the same time nagkaroon po kasi ng problema diyan sa pagi-implement ng proyekto na yan and therefore dumating sa point na napahiya ang Commission on Elections,” he added.

[Translation: At the same time, there was a glitch in the implementation of the project to the point that it caused embarassment to the Commission on Elections.]

He was referring to the incident that happened in April when the last two Comelec-sponsored debates were canceled following the failure of Impact Manila Hub to settle its ₱14-million debt to Sofitel, the venue for the event.  

Garcia said an investigation was already conducted with an initial report expected next week.

Five to six Comelec personnel may be involved in the mess, he said. Criminal, civil, and administrative cases will be filed against those liable, he noted.