Comelec still owes Smartmatic P270M as retention fee – Brillantes
MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) still owes election technology provider Smartmatic International some P270 million, almost a month after the midterm polls.
But for poll watchdog Kontra Daya, no further payments should be made by Comelec to Smartmatic as it cited the massive failure of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines during the election day.
Kontra Daya convenor Dr. Gani Tapang said Smartmatic should even be fined and asked to return previous payments made by the poll body because of the dismal performance of the PCOS machines.
In an interview, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said the P270 million would be 15 percent of the entire P1.8 billion for the acquisition of the PCOS machines used during the elections.
“We have paid everything except the retention fee of 15 percent… so that’s about P270 million,” said Brillantes, explaining that the retention fee was needed in order to have some hold on Smartmatic in case there were issues during the conduct of elections.
Kontra Daya staged on Wednesday a protest action in front of the Comelec office in Manila as it called for the junking of the PCOS machines. It added that all past and future payments made by the Comelec to Smartmatic should be audited.
“Smartmatic has been going around claiming success with the 2013 elections, making the Philippines a showcase of its international operations… But the recently concluded polls were filled with so many problems,” said Tapang.
Among the problems cited by the poll watchdog were the reported failure of some 18,000 machines to transmit results on election day, problematic compact flash (CF) cards, malfunctioning PCOS machines along with the transparency server that bloated initial results from 1,400 precincts.
“From what we saw last May, we don’t think it is right for taxpayer’s money to be paid Smartmatic given its dismal performance,” Kontra Daya said, adding that Smartmatic’s PCOS machines should no longer be used for future elections in the country.
The group stressed that Smartmatic’s recent statement giving itself a pat on the back indicated it would still be around for the 2016 presidential elections.
“Our people as well as our elected officials should be genuinely concerned that Smartmatic wants to reprise its role for the 2016 elections. Smartmatic is here to stay unless we take action and make it and Comelec accountable for the questionable conduct of the 2013 polls,” Tapang said.
“The only just position now is the junking of the PCOS system in favor of a more transparent, reliable and trustworthy system that is not controlled by foreigners,” he added.
Sought for comment, Brillantes said Kontra Daya did not have enough valid grounds to demand the junking of the PCOS machines.
“Tell us what is wrong with the PCOS, not doubts. Give us specifics on what is wrong with the PCOS,” Brillantes said. The machines, already owned by the Philippine government, are here to stay, according to the Comelec chief.
“The PCOS belongs to us already. We have already paid for it,” the elections chairman said.
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