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Cayetano cries overpricing on indelible ink; supplier says solon has wrong info

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano cried foul on an alleged overpricing of indelible ink during the 2012 Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) voter’s registration, but the supplier of the item said the senator based his accusations on wrong information. During the Joint Congressional Oversight committee (JCOC) on the automated elections system Wednesday, the Senate panel chair said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) bought overpriced bottles of indelible ink from supplier ASA Color and Chemical Industries Corp. for the ARMM sign-up period last July. The total contract price is P3.023 million for 21,458 bottles of indelible ink at P140.88 each. Cayetano claimed each bottle costs just a dollar each, citing a website which indicated the price. This means each bottle is allegedly overpriced by P100 each, given that the exchange rate per dollar ranges from P40 to P45, Cayetano said. He went on to say that if applied during the 2010 elections, ASA—which provided 720,000 bottles then—thus overpriced the items at P72 million. “Ilang beses na naming napatunayan na may mga kalokohan pagdating sa bidding…Bakit nasa website nila, P140 ‘yung ink pero sa website naman ng supplier eh one dollar lang?” Cayetano told reporters after the hearing. “These are the things that affect the credibility of this election. While we allowed them to explain, we have to know the answers,” he added. The JCOC vice chairman claimed that this is not an isolated case, citing the alleged overpricing of furniture and furnishing of the cottages of the poll body in Baguio City that Cayetano revealed last August. “Buti kung isolated ito. Nakita na natin sa bilihan ng kama, nakita na natin sa warehouse,” Cayetano said, referring to Comelec’s purchases of mattresses amounting P85,000 to P90,000 when in the internet a bed is sold at about P8,000. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said they would look into the alleged overpricing. He left early to attend a lunch meeting with the Canadian ambassador. Reached for a comment, the chief operating officer of ASA said Cayetano may be using wrong information. Gene Arbatim of ASA told GMA News Online that Cayetano may be referring to the website where one of his staff mistakenly put the wrong price on the product as they were registering in the business-to-business e-market place. “My account executive said they put in there just to actually put in as a default price. Because when you register in the site you have to put in the prices. That was just a default price. That was it,” Arbatim said. He added that the price is “not the true reflection” of the value of their product. Arbatim noted though that he does not blame the “good senator,” and instead puts the fault on Cayetano’s researchers. “I don’t think it’s the good senator who’s at fault here but their researchers. They could have researched more. They could have called me. I could have told them the same thing that I told you,” Arbatim said. He added that Comelec is getting a bargain since their item—taking into consideration the increase in market value of silver nitrate—should cost around P250 each. “The Comelec requires indelible ink [with] 7.5 percent silver nitrate. How much is one kilo of silver nitrate? P35,000,” Arbatim said. — BM, GMA News