Watchdog group wants Smartmatic out of bidding
MANILA, Philippines–An election watchdog group has urged the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) to bar the company that has provided the country’s automated election machines from joining the new bid to supply 23,000 more voting machines worth over P2 billion and service the 82,000 units the Commission on Election had earlier bought from the company.
The GPPB is a Department of Budget and Management-attached agency.
In a letter to its executive director, Dennis Santiago, watchdog Automated Elections System (AES) Watch expressed concern about multinational company Smartmatic’s participation in the next Comelec bidding to supply new precinct count optical scan or PCOS machines for the 2016 presidential election.
AES Watch—composed of former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, professor Bobby Tuazon, Dr. Pablo Manalastas and Dr. Nelson Celis, among others—cited the numerous technical glitches allegedly experienced with the PCOS machines in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
They also cited Smartmatic’s “blatant violations” of Comelec bidding rules and regulations.
“There is incontrovertible proof the PCOS machines and software (used in the two elections) were owned by the company Dominion Voting Systems (DVS) and not by Smartmatic. The legal suit between Smartmatic and DVS attests to the fact,” AES Watch said.
It assailed Smartmatic for “not declaring its subcontracting arrangement with DVS when it submitted its bid in 2009, a clear violation of the GPPB’s Manual for the Procurement of Goods and Services.”
“Because of Smartmatic’s deception in not declaring the true ownership of the PCOS hardware and software, the conduct of the elections was jeopardized,” they said.
According to the watchdog group, “the process dictates that the submission for blacklisting be instigated by the procuring entity (Comelec), but AES Watch invokes its right to make a citizen’s arrest since the Comelec may not be motivated to change the status quo.”
For his part, Smartmatic president Cesar Flores dismissed the criticism against the firm as “nuisance, recycled and baseless” by what he called “dubious groups.”
Flores expressed confidence his company, “being the manufacturer of the PCOS machines, could provide the Comelec the best services, such as maintenance, upgrade and refurbishing of equipment.”
In a statement, Flores dared Smartmatic’s critics to “keep filing those cases.”
“The Supreme Court has on two occasions ruled that the contracts and bids Smartmatic had won were fair, legal and advantageous to the country,” he said.
Hermenegildo Estrella Jr., one of the leaders of the newly formed Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections, or C3E coalition, belied Smartmatic’s claim of being a global leader in the manufacture of automated voting machines.
“Smartmatic is a mere reseller and not a manufacturer of automated election systems,” he said.
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