Rafanan no longer Comelec Law Department Chief, BAC Chair

by Edward C. Torcuato, NAMFREL Assistant Project Coordinator

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.20

Former Comelec Law Department chair Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan has been transferred to the Planning Department, after also being removed by the Comelec from the joint DOJ-Comelec committee investigating allegations of fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, Jr. described Rafanan as "uncontrollable." Prior to this development, Rafanan had been complaining to the media about his transfer from the Law Department to the ad hoc investigation panel. As head of the Law Department, Rafanan spearheaded
the investigation on the overpriced secrecy folders in 2010. One of the Comelec personnel implicated in the case, Atty. Allen Abaya, was transferred to the Law Department allegedly to replace Rafanan. Atty. Esmeralda Ladra, formerly of the Planning department and deputy executive director for administration, has recently been named chair of the Law Department.

While he was in the Law Department, Rafanan also chaired the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) from September 2010 to August 2011. During Dir. Rafanan’s chairmanship, the Comelec BAC was consistent in sending out invitations, not only to potential bidders but also to civil society organizations (CSOs), including the media, to observe the conduct of the committee’s procurement activities. Following are some of the organizations that the BAC under Rafanan used to send invitations to, to observe the conduct of their bidding
Procurement Watch, Inc. (PWI)
Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN)
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)
Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB)
Commission on Audit (COA)
Resident Ombudsman
Now that the Comelec BAC is under a new leadership (Atty. Julius Thaddeus Hernan), Namfrel encourages the Comelec to continue inviting CSOs and the media to observe their procurement activities, in the interest of transparency. Section 13 of GPRA 9184, otherwise known as the Procurement Law, states that, “to ensure transparency of the process, the BAC shall, in all stages of the procurement process, invite, in addition to the representative of the Commission on Audit (COA), at least two (2) observers, who shall not have the right to vote, to sit in its proceedings.”

The Comelec BAC under Hernan conducted a public bidding on Voter Registration System Machines for Overseas Absentee Voting on September 12, 2011. Prior to this, the pre-bid conference for the machines was held on August 31, 2011, to which the Namfrel Secretariat did not receive any invitation (Namfrel was invited for September 12). The approved budget for the contract (ABC) is Php 11,979,800.00, as seen in their advertisement on PhilGEPS.net, a considerable amount that more than justifies the need to have observers during the bidding.

Regarding the joint Comelec-DOJ panel tasked to probe fraud in the previous elections, the election commission has not named any person yet to replace Rafanan after he was removed. There were reports that the joint panel continues to fulfill its functions in investigating the poll frauds sans counterpart(s) from the Comelec.