MANILA — Opposition senator and former election lawyer Leila de Lima filed Senate Resolution number 855 to urge Congress to probe the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) awarding of the 2022 presidential election logistics contract to F2 Logistics Philippines, a firm largely controlled by Duterte campaign donor and Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy.

“There is a need to avoid any semblance of conflict of interest and ensure that no supplier that participated in partisan political activities should be awarded with contracts connected to the conduct of our national and local elections,” de Lima said, noting the “need to ensure that the election processes are free from even suspicions of cheating, manipulation, and irregularities by disqualifying suppliers with known links to identified political parties and possible candidates.”

“Any transaction or contract that would erode public trust in government, and in the objectivity of civil service, must be put under the strictest scrutiny,” she added.

The Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) declared F2 Logistics Philippines, Inc. as the bidder with “the lowest calculated bid for the PHP1.61 billion project for the procurement and deployment of election equipment, peripherals, forms, supplies, paraphernalia and warehousing for 2022 elections” last July 27. 

“F2 supposedly bested three other firms that qualified out of eight participating companies. As the winning bidder, the firm is expected to deliver equipment and supplies such as vote-counting machines, external batteries and accessories, consolidation or canvassing system machines, transmission equipment and devices, and ballots,” the Senate noted. 

It also said that Uy was “previously awarded a government contract, was investigated for his alleged links with the administration and has reportedly sat as chairman of F2 Logistics Philippines since 2006.”

De Lima said the Senate should ensure that the awarding of government contracts is compliant with the provisions of the Government Procurement Reform Act and other relevant laws.

“There is a need to revisit and review existing rules and regulations regarding the bidding out of government contracts to ensure competitiveness and fair play in public bidding processes,” she said.

De Lima also pointed out that those who are found to have taken part in a contract with an alleged conflict of interest “must be brought before the public to answer for the decisions they have made and choices they have taken that could potentially endanger public interest.”

“Even a whiff of cronyism and the slightest accusation of possible corruption must warrant public concern for these threaten the people’s right of suffrage,” she said.

“This issue should not be taken lightly especially when an apparent majority control over many industries that affect the lives and rights of Filipinos are concentrated in the same hands and within the same circle of those who are closely connected to the President,” she added.

Checking concerns

In a report by ABS-CBN NewsComelec chairman Sheriff Abas said the Commission is checking the concerns raised against F2 Logistics Philippines and its owner who is a perceived ally of the Duterte administration.

Abas said he has asked a panel to probe the company, the sole firm qualified to deliver logistics for the 2022 elections, after election watchdog Kontra Daya said its links to Davao tycoon Uy was a “red flag” and “awarding PHP1.61 billion to a publicly known Duterte crony is unacceptable and making him responsible for an important election task is unconscionable.”

“Pinapa-check ko nga sa SBAC … Tingnan niyo yan kasi mainam na iklaro natin yan,” Abas told a press conference.

Comelec said the company will undergo a post-qualification process before it officially bags the contract. 

According to the report, Uy is the fourth largest campaign donor to President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2016 presidential bid, contributing PHP30 million. 

Abas insisted, “Hindi naman automatic yan na dahil contributor sya ay disqualified na sya. Alam naman natin na karamihan ng mga negosyanteng malalaki nagko-contribute naman yan sa iba’t ibang (candidate)… depende yan sa GPPB (Government Procurement Policy Board) policy sa post-qualification,” Abas said.

According to an annual report of Phoenix Petroleum Philippines submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2020 and obtained by ABS-CBN Newsit listed F2 Logistics as a subsidiary of Udenna Management & Resources Corp., under the parent company Udenna Corporation in which Uy sits as chairman and president. 

It also noted Wall Street Journal profile list Uy as the chairman of F2 Logistics though he has not publicly confirmed or denied the affiliation.