Comelec drops James Jimenez and appoints new interim spokesperson after debate fiasco

The development comes three days before the May 9 high-stakes vote and after a commissioner recommended the temporary discharge of James Jimenez from media coordination duties.

MANILA, Philippines — The Elections Commission (Comelec) has relieved polling station veteran James Jimenez as spokesperson, following controversy surrounding the cancellation of the last two debates, in which his name was dragged. .

In a memorandum sent by the office of President Saidamen Pangarungan to the media on Friday May 6, the director of the legal department 3 John Rex Laudiangco was named acting spokesperson for Comelec.

The development comes three days before national elections, and after Commissioner Rey Bulay recommended the temporary relief of Jimenez and his deputy Frances Arabe from their media coordination duties.

Jimenez and Arabe were Comelec’s contacts in the polling organization’s failed partnership with Impact Hub Manila, whose chief executive repeatedly issued bad checks to debate venue partner Sofitel.

The private company’s failure to settle its 14.095 million peso debt to Sofitel ultimately led to the cancellation of the last two presidential and vice-presidential debates of the election campaign.

It was Jimenez who promised Sofitel in an April 1 letter that Impact Hub Manila would be able to meet its payment obligations, saying Comelec would be the “funding source” for the remaining events through the request for purchase of 15.3 million pesos and the price notice for Impact Hub Manila.

A copy of the purchase request, which was leaked to the media, bore the signatures of Jimenez, Arabe and the president of Comelec.

But Bulay said the en banc Comelec, of which Jimenez and Arabe are not a part, feels that the Comelec is not supposed to spend a single penny editing the proceedings.

Jimenez, after the controversy was in the national spotlight, had said he would refrain from making public comments on the matter. Arabe, meanwhile, had claimed that “the actions were honest regarding the staging of the debates”.

Jimenez served as Comelec spokesperson for 15 years, passing five Comelec presidents, from Benjamin Abalos Sr. to Sheriff Abas.

The Comelec veteran, however, remains as head of the education and information department, Pangarungan’s office said.

More details to follow. – Rappler.com

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