Comelec designates its law director as acting spokesperson, replacing James Jimenez who faces probe

Jimenez, who had served as Comelec spox since 2006, on the hot seat amid “PiliPinas Debates 2022 fiasco”

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez speaking during the May 13, 2019 presscon of the poll body. (Eagle News Service)

(Eagle News) — The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) has designated the poll body’s law department director, John Rex Laudiangco, as acting spokesperson amid an ongoing probe on James Jimenez regarding the PiliPinas Debates “fiasco.”

This was the first time in 16 years that Jimenez, the longest serving Comelec spokesperson, has been relieved albeit temporarily from the duty he had held since 2006.

He, however, would remain as the director of the Comelec’s Education and Information Division, according to Comelec commissioner George Garcia.

Comelec chair Saidamen Pangarungan assigned Laudiangco to be the Comelec’s acting spokesperson and would be reporting directly to Commissioner Garcia. The memorandum replacing Jimenez was issued on Friday, May 6, three days before the crucial May 9, 2022 national and local elections.

“You shall report directly to Commissioner George M. Garcia, the Commission-in-Charge (CIC) on Public Information and Education,” stated Pangarungan said in the one-page memorandum.

Laudiangco, for his part, said he was humbled by the decision and said he was looking forward to working “towards the success of our elections.”

Garcia described Laudiangco as one of the “best senior staff of the Commission.”

-Jimenez congratulates new Comelec spokesperson-

Jimenez congratulated Laudiangco in a tweet where he announced that the latter had already been designated as Comelec spokesman.

Jimenez has been embroiled in allegations of anomalies regarding the PiliPinas Debates 2022 which the Comelec decided to investigate.

The Comelec, in April, had to postpone the presidential and vice-presidential debates that were scheduled at the Sofitel Manila venue due to the alleged failure of Impact Hub Manila, the company behind Vote Pilipinas, to pay Sofitel the balance of around P14 million for the use of the hotel as venue for the debates.

Comelec commissioner Rey Bulay, who headed the “Task Force PiliPinas Debates 2022 Fiasco” investigating the issue, earlier recommended the temporary relief of Jimenez and another director of the Comelec EID, Frances Arabe, as they are investigated for their roles in the debates fiasco. (See related story: “Temporary relief” of Comelec spox Jimenez recommended as poll body starts formal probe on debate fiasco)

-Pilipinas Debates 2022 probe-

Jimenez allegedly assured Sofitel that it would be paid its balance after the checks issued by Impact Hub Manila to Sofitel all bounced due to unavailable funds.

The Comelec only learned of this when Sofitel informed the poll body about it and sought its help in collecting the funds.The Comelec commissioners were reportedly unaware that Jimenez had virtually served as a guarantor for Impact Hub Manila, when he wrote Sofitel assuring the hotel management that it would be paid.

Impact Hub Manila also earlier issued a statement saying that the Comelec was not a party to the contract between Impact Hub Manila and Sofitel.

The Comelec also said that it would not release any public funds for Sofitel, and that its memorandum of agreement with Impact Hub Manila stated that its services were supposed to be free of charge.

(Eagle News Service)