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Firm that questioned Comelec bidding gets indelible ink contract

An ink company that once questioned the bidding process of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and that was also accused of overpricing will be supplying the indelible ink for the May 13 midterm elections. ASA Color and Chemical Industries, Inc. has been chosen by the Comelec after the lowest bidder, the joint venture of Centurian and Jedaric Chemicals, was disqualified. The joint venture offered a P68-million bid to supply 520,000 bottles of indelible ink that will be used to mark the finger of those who have already cast their vote. ASA Colors earlier complained against a rival bidder in the bidding process for the contract, citing alleged links to a controversial supplier involved in the overpriced ballot secrecy folders scam in 2010. The post-qualification proceedings held last February 27 showed that the indelible ink of Centurian and Jedaric Chemicals can be easily removed when subjected to water and different solvents. The testing of the indelible ink was conducted by the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Comelec Bids and Awards committee (BAC). It was not open to media coverage. Since there was no reporter during the testing, it was ASA Color, which submitted the second lowest bid of P73 million, that pointed out the ink’s weaknesses to the media. Since the lowest bidder failed during the post-qualification proceedings, the Comelec bids and awards committee turned to ASA Colors and have it undergo the same process. “The Bids and Awards Committee approved our ink last Wednesday, March 20,” Gene Arbatin, ASA Color chief operating officer, said in a text message to GMA News Online. Poll chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. confirmed this to reporters. “Indelible ink tapos na. ASA Colors... sila lang ang nag-seal [ng] bids. Sila ang reklamo nang reklamo, sila ang nandun, nawala na rin ang issue,” he said. The contract, however, has yet to be awarded.                                                                             ASA Color was the same company that supplied the 360,000 bottles of indelible ink used during the October 2010 barangay elections and 21, 458 bottles for the voters’ registration in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in 2012. Last year, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano accused ASA Color of overpricing the indelible ink it supplied for the ARMM sign-up period, claiming that, based on an Alibaba website, a bottle only costs a dollar. Arbatin said the 2012 indelible ink contract with the Comelec was not overpriced. “The price at the Alibaba website was a default price of $1 because we did not put any amount. For 2013, I still have the same price as that of 2010 despite of the increase in the price of silver nitrate,” Arbatin argued. — KBK, GMA News