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Comelec to take over warehouse in Laguna

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is planning to take over the warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna after the plant’s leasees refused to agree with the terms of negotiation. Commissioner Christian Robert Lim told reporters late Wednesday that Comelec has filed petitions to two courts in Biñan suggesting an "expropriation" or a take-over of a private property for public interest. Lim did not specify the courts in Laguna. "We're asking for the order to be issued that we will be placed in possession. It's called expropriation," Lim said. Expropriation occurs when a public institution like the government takes over a private company due to public interest even when the private entity is not in favor of the move. Comelec earlier had a disagreement with the long-term leasees of the warehouse after the latter insisted that the contract should last three years. Comelec is only asking to rent the plant until June 2013, or a month after the midterm elections. Earlier secured by the Comelec with police forces, the warehouse currently stores the equipment for the May 2013 elections, such as the ballot counting precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, assembly lines and configuration assembly. "We could not agree on the [terms of negotiations]. We don’t have time anymore... to move the machines out of the areas," Lim said. He said they already deposited a seven-month rental of about P44.8 million. Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. noted though that the expropriations is for "temporary use" of the warehouse. Brillantes earlier said they secured the place due to a threat in the area. “Mayroong threat na pinapaalis kami ‘dun. Nagpadala kami ng konting security at pina-ikutan namin ‘yung buong warehouse para hindi magalaw. Kasi andoon lahat ng PCOS, lahat ng assembly unit, lahat ng mga makina andoon,” Brillantes had said. Comelec had since secured the warehouse with police forces to monitor the election equipment stored there. The Cabuyao plant was a facility of PCOS supplier Smartmatic-Total Information Management consortium during the 2010 elections. Comelec took over the management of the warehouse after it bought from Smartmatic the 82,000 PCOS machines to the tune of P1.8 billion. With two failed biddings for the supply of a warehouse as potential bidders fell short in the post-qualification stage, Comelec decided to negotiate with the Cabuyao warehouse to extend the storage of PCOS until June 2013. — BM, GMA News