The Commission on Elections (Comelec) still owes its systems provider Smartmatic Philippines P50 million for services rendered during the 2010 national elections, according to the company’s president.
Smartmatic Philippines president Cesar Flores disclosed the Comelec’s debt to his company on Wednesday night at the Manila Overseas Press Club forum, where he discussed Smartmatic’s assessment of 2010 general elections.
Speaking to reporters later, Flores said Smartmatic’s insistence on being involved in next year’s midterm elections only proved its faith in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) system, though continuing criticism obscured its success.
“That actually speaks of our patience and our will to continue working with Comelec because, even though we haven’t been fully paid, we are still crazy enough to want to do the next elections,” Flores said.
Flores said “some reports” that the Comelec needed to complete could be hindering the full payment of Smartmatic’s 2010 contract.
“We are just waiting for them to finalize their analysis,” he said.
Despite the Comelec’s debt, Flores said, Smartmatic would continue to build on the goodwill it had fostered with the commission by working with it for the 2010 elections.
Asked whether Smartmatic had considered legal options to collect, Flores answered in the negative, saying the company wanted to solve the problem amicably.
Flores said the Comelec’s debt to Smartmatic would not prevent the company from working again with the commission.
Smartmatic is selling to the Comelec 80,000 PCOS voting machines used in the 2010 elections for P1.8 billion for use in next year’s midterm elections. Saying Smartmatic had corrected the machines’ flaws, the Comelec decided in March to buy the machines.
But election watchdogs and critics of the PCOS machines challenged the contract in the Supreme Court, winning a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Comelec on April 24.
Flores considered the TRO a setback. Had not the Supreme Court temporarily stopped the contract, he said, the public would have gotten a glimpse of the upgraded PCOS machines.
Flores said Smartmatic technicians had been working on the kinks of the PCOS machines over the last few weeks.
“Actually, we have been working very hard in the last weeks because the idea is Comelec receives the machines and they can now, for a fact, see that the machines are working and are properly maintained,” Flores said.
He said the company had been dealing with the flaws of the machines since last year, when the Comelec hinted it would exercise the “option-to-purchase” clause in Smartmatic’s contract for the elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Miko Morelos