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Smartmatic bags P1.2B poll contract; Comelec hit

IT’S OFFICIAL Smartmatic wins the contract to repair voting machines for the 2016 elections. A technical staff of Smartmatic demonstrates the automated vote readingmachine at the Comelec office, in this photo taken on Dec. 12, 2014. JOAN BONDOC

IT’S OFFICIAL Smartmatic wins the contract to repair voting machines for the 2016 elections. A technical staff of Smartmatic demonstrates the automated vote reading machine at the Comelec office, in this photo taken on Dec. 12, 2014.  JOAN BONDOC

MANILA, Philippines—There are unresolved, so-called “hanging concerns” but Smartmatic has bagged the P1.2-billion contract to refurbish the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) voting machines for the May 2016 presidential polls, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said on Sunday.

“Voting 5-2, the Comelec en banc awarded the contract to Smartmatic,” Brillantes said of the deal approved before the holidays. He told the Inquirer the Comelec planned to make a formal announcement Monday “about this important development.” He did not say who voted for or against giving the contract to Smartmatic.

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As expected, the poll watchdog group Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) assailed the Comelec for allegedly “rewarding the inefficient and ineligible, a sorry way to start the New Year.”

‘Ineligible to do business’

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Hermenegildo Estrella Jr., a C3E coconvener, said they were “manifesting our strongest rejection of this callous and despicable act.”

“We will use all available means to stop the Comelec from further rewarding the inefficiency of Smartmatic, which is also not eligible to do business,” he said.

Estrella challenged Smartmatic to deal with what he called “hanging concerns” raised by C3E and other civil society groups.

Attention-seekers

Contacted by phone, Brillantes said he would respond at the right time and venue to concerns raised by various groups opposing the participation of the automated voting poll system provider in the Comelec bidding for the repair of its PCOS machines, as well as the procurement of P2-billion worth of additional voting machines.

Instead of hitting back at his critics, he wished them well as he also disclosed he had “started preparing for my scheduled retirement next month.”

Earlier, he brushed aside issues raised by his critics, whom he called “troublemakers” and “attention-seekers every time there is a coming election.”

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‘Hanging concerns’

“Does Smartmatic own the license to the PCOS machines it leased then sold to Comelec or were they merely a vendor? Were the PCOS source codes validated before the 2010 and 2013 elections? Was the software used in these elections certified by a third party as required by law? Was Smartmatic ISO-certified, or it only submitted the ISO certification of the firm Jarltech, the real manufacturer of the PCOS machines, whose license is another company called Dominion?”

C3E earlier debunked Smartmatic’s claim of exclusivity in refurbishing the PCOS machines, saying it was “false and bereft of basis.”

The poll body, it added, “faces possible legal action for intellectual property violation should it bid out the repair” of the voting machines.

‘Riddled with flaws’

Last month, former national treasurer Leonor Briones joined several groups strongly opposing Smartmatic’s bid for the supply of additional PCOS machines and the refurbishing of old PCOS units. She told reporters she would go to court if the Comelec awarded the contracts to the controversial company.

“We already had two elections using the Smartmatic system that is riddled with flaws. Why are we going to get its services again? It has a poor track record and it is facing so many complaints and legal issues,” she said.

According to Briones, information technology experts were convinced that the PCOS machines were “prone to tampering.”

The machines were also considered to have “zero value” three years after they had been initially used and they could no longer be repaired, nor could parts be bought for replacement, she added.

To court

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said IT specialists and observers of the 2010 and 2013 vote counts “cannot swallow the counting procedures of Smartmatic. Up to now, the issues remain unresolved.”

“As a registered voter and therefore a participant in the 2016 elections, I will do my moral and civic obligation by going to court to disqualify Smartmatic,” he added.

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TAGS: bidding, Elections, poll contract, Sixto Brillantes Jr., Smarmatic
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