Ex-commissioner urges Comelec to bid out PCOS upgrade contract
MANILA, Philippines—A former election commissioner who handled the country’s first election automation on Friday urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to bid out the contract to refurbish the 80,000 vote counting machines to be reused in the 2016 elections.
“It should be bidded out. They need to be transparent,” said former Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal in a statement on Friday.
He also said that conducting a public bidding and inviting the Taiwan-based manufacturer of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, which the election body bought from Smartmatic Corp. in 2012, would be most beneficial to the government.
He was commenting on reports that the Comelec en banc was set to approve an extended warranty agreement with its technology partner Smartmatic for the repair and upgrade of the PCOS machines.
Larrazabal said Smartmatic was not in a position to offer a warranty since it was not the manufacturer of the machines.
“If they are not the manufacturer, how can they warranty the machines that they did not produce? It’s not their company that produced the machines,” he said.
The Comelec’s law department was also opposed to the idea of a negotiated contract with the Venezuelan firm, citing the Government Procurement Law, which mandates that all purchases have to be done through competitive bidding and allows alternative methods of procurement “only in highly exceptional cases.”
Too early for repair talk
In a Nov. 4 legal opinion signed by Director Esmeralda Ladra, the department said it was too early to talk about the repair of the units when it has yet to be determined if the machines need repairing or the servers and network equipment need replacing.
Earlier this week, the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) poll watchdog coalition deplored that the Comelec “would be contracting again for the supply of additional PCOS machines and refurbishing used units with a company which has never been an expert in automating elections.”
C3E formally asked the Comelec to blacklist Smartmatic from all its election-related projects for alleged misrepresentation for claiming that it manufactured and owned the automated voting machines it had supplied, and for numerous violations of the country’s election laws.
The Comelec also described as “hearsay and rehashed” the petition filed by lawyer Homobono Adaza before the Supreme Court, seeking to stop the poll body from conducting the public bidding for the 2016 automated election system.
In his petition, Adaza said the bidding could push through only after the resolution of the pending legal questions on the Comelec’s deal with Smartmatic, the election technology provider during the 2010 and 2013 elections.
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