Badgered on poll automation, Comelec chief blows top in House hearing
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. on Wednesday scolded lawmakers for badgering him about the lapses in the 2010 computerized elections committed by Smartmatic International Corp., that the government plans to tap again in the 2013 elections.
“All I have been hearing from all of you (are) the wrongs we committed in 2010,” an incensed Brillantes said in Filipino. “Can we possibly talk about what we will do in 2013? I feel very bad about this. All I get (from you) are the mistakes we made. I hope somebody will come forward and offer a machine that will be perfect.”
Lawmakers had besieged Brillantes with complaints about Smartmatic during Wednesday’s hearing of the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms.
Among Smartmatic’s slip-ups in the 2010 elections are errors in the compact flash cards containing the list of voters and candidates in each precinct; the breakdown of some machines that resulted in delays in transmitting results to canvassing centers; and the failure of built-in ultraviolet mark readers in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to read the security marks in the ballots.
But Brillantes quickly apologized to members of the committee for his outburst after Quezon City Representative Bernadette Herrera Dy explained that the House members merely wanted an update on the Comelec’s preparations for the 2013 elections, specifically on how Comelec plans to address the failings of Smartmatic in the 2010 elections.
“Please excuse me for being hot-headed,” he said. “I hope you will be more understanding of the Comelec which is different from the one in 2010 that made the mistakes. That is what I’m trying to resolve. Please understand the situation we are in.”
Ticked off by columnist
Brillantes cited a recent piece by Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod that particularly ticked him off.
Monsod was critical of the Comelec’s decision to retain Smartmatic as its technology partner in the next election despite its shortcomings as noted by a House committee and local information technology groups. Civil society groups, Monsod wrote, wanted Smartmatic penalized and its P7.2-billion PCOS machines replaced with more reliable alternatives. She was surprised, she wrote, that the Comelec had decided to reward Smartmatic with another P1.1-billion contract—P376 million to procure ballot boxes and P700 million to deploy them. The contract was overpriced, she added.
Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, who was seated beside Brillantes, admitted to providing Monsod with the information on Comelec’s decision to retain Smartmatic, including how he was the lone dissenter to the Comelec plan.
Lagman said he had tried in vain to convince the Comelec to change its IT partner. “I am the most oppressed in the group,” he said of his share of detractors. “What the (critics) are writing against me is coming from one source. One of these days, I might decide to hit back,” he said.
Originally posted at 08:20 pm | Wednesday, March 14, 2012