Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic Corporation shows the use of a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) headquarters in Manila on Tuesday. Use of the PCOS in the 2016 elections is still up in the air after the Supreme Court voided Comelec's maintenance contract with Smartmatic last April.(MNS photo)

Marlon Garcia of Smartmatic Corporation shows the use of a Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) headquarters in Manila on Tuesday. Use of the PCOS in the 2016 elections is still up in the air after the Supreme Court voided Comelec’s maintenance contract with Smartmatic last April. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) — A group composed of several bishops and a former senator has asked the Supreme Court to stop a P12-billion contract to lease more than 90,000 optical mark reader (OMR) units for the 2016 elections.

In its petition, the group said the Commission on Elections committed a grave abuse of discretion when on June 2 it issued Resolution No. 1544 that allowed the realignment of P12.64 billion for the lease of 93,977 new OMRs.

The group said the resolution was legally and constitutionally infirm for violating the 1987 Philippine Constitution, the 2015 General Appropriations Act, and the Supreme Court ruling against the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

The SC ruling struck down as illegal several DAP-related acts such as the use of unprogrammed funds and unobligated allotments as savings, as well as the cross-border transfer of the executive’s savings

“It is crystal clear that the intention of the Commission en banc in realigning the capital outlay requirement of the FY2016 NLE… amounting to billions of pesos was to meet the funding requirement for the lease with OTP of a total of 93,977 new OMR units, in violation of the Constitution, the 2015 GAA, and the ruling of the Supreme Court in Araullo barring DAP-like realignment of funds,” read the petition.

Among the petitioners were Archbishop Rolando Tria Tirona, Archbishop Romulo dela Cruz, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Bishop Filomeno Bactol, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Bishop Ramon Villena, Rev. Arthur Corpuz, former Sen. Francisco Tatad, Greco Belgica and Glenn Chong.

Named respondents were the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM Corp.

The group said the P12-billion procurement for the OMR units would exceed by over P1 billion the legally authorized P11.436-billion expenditure level for the Comelec’s preparatory activities for the 2016 polls.

“Suffice it to stress that if permitted, the Commission will be permitted not only to undermine Congress’ spending power but more importantly, to wreak havoc to the budget, the system, as well as desecrate the Fundamental Law of the land,” the group said.

The group said the 2015 GAA does not contain any item authorizing the Comelec to incur obligation related to the procurement of new OMR units.

The group added it was “illogical” to even consider using OMR when there are still reusable Precinct Count Optical Scan machines in its inventory.

“It may be recalled that the Comelec has never expressed doubt on the viability of the PCOS and even boasted that the same are repairable,” stressed the group. (MNS)