THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has formally signed a P535-million contract with F2 Logistics, a company owned by one of President Rodrigo Duterte’s biggest campaign contributors in 2016, for the transport of election supplies and equipment for the 2022 polls.

The Comelec uploaded a copy of the contract on its website on October 31, a day after it was signed by Comelec Chairman Sheriff Abas and Efren Uy, president of F2 Logistics.

The contract covers the deployment of election equipment, peripherals, forms supplies and paraphernalia with provision of warehousing services for the upcoming polls.

"All official ballots dispatched from the NPO and/or other Comelec warehouses must be transported directly to the designated airports/ports of origin from Manila up to the designated consignees nationwide," the contract reads.

"No unauthorized holding shall be allowed at the Hubs of the provider unless necessity for said holding is clearly established with prior advice to and approval of the Comelec through its PSC," it added.

It also indicates the four lots of areas of coverage which are the following:

* Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon -- P106 million

* National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, and Bicol -- P123 million

* Western Visayas, Central Visayas, and Eastern Visayas -- P120.9 million

* Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga and Bangsamoro region -- P185.9 million

It was also noted in the contract that the company will be liable for any loss or damage of cargo, which they should report to the poll body within 24 hours.

In August, the Comelec said F2 Logistics was declared as the bidder with the lowest calculated bid of P1.61 billion for the said services.

The company underwent a post-qualification process before the contract was officially awarded to them.

Meanwhile, poll watchdog Kontra Daya urged the Comelec to cancel the contract due to the links of the F2 Logistics owner, Davao-based tycoon Dennis Uy, to Duterte.

It said Uy contributed P30 million in Duterte’s presidential bid in 2016.

Kontra Daya convenor Professor Danilo Arao said it was an "issue of ethics and delicadeza," compromising the conduct of a clean and honest election.

"Hindi na usapin ng legality. Usapin na po ito ng propriety... Dapat ma-cancel na itong kontrata para walang potential conflict of interest," he said in a radio interview.

"Sana pakinggan ng Comelec ang hinaing hindi lang ng Kontra Daya. Kasi nandun ang elemento ng agam-agam at kung nandiyan pa rin yan hanggang Mayo anuwebe, talagang magkakaroon ng pagduda iyong mga tao at huwag sana umabot ito sa disenfranchisement," Arao added.

In a television interview, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez maintained there is no conflict of interest in the contract awarded to F2 Logistics.

“First of all, the question of conflict of interest was looked at, talagang chineck yan ng ating Bids and Awards Committee and it was found that there really was no grounds to say that there was a conflict of interest,” he said.

“(If the contract will be revoked) There will have to be some sort of violation in the terms of the contract, some sort of violation by F2 or a change of circumstances, like all of a sudden ‘di na kailangan ng Comelec ang kontrata but in terms of what's being floated now, in terms of suggestions being made, again that would not be grounds for rescission,” he added.

He also said that the awarding of the contract followed the procurement laws of the government.

Jimenez allayed the public fear over possible tampering of vote-counting-machines (VCMs) particularly by the F2 Logistics in favor of certain candidates.

He said the VCMs will be delivered by the firm at the polling centers three to four days before the Election Day where the final testing and sealing evaluation by the Comelec will be conducted to check if the machines are properly working.

“The minute you find out na walang laman yan, it prints out zero report, then you know that your speculation is baseless kasi obviously walang nangyari sa makina, and then, that is the only time that the results are actually generated by the machine, habang nangyayari ang elections. Ang layo ng logistics diyan,” Jimenez said.

He emphasized that the company will only be responsible for the machines and other poll equipment and they will not be touching election results as it was the Comelec responsible for its care. (SunStar Philippines)