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Smartmatic deal was only for diagnosis–Comelec

By: - Reporter / @santostinaINQ
/ 05:09 AM January 07, 2015
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Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–Only the P300-million proposal to examine the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for glitches, and not the P1.2-billion contract for the refurbishment of the 80,000 voting machines, has been given to Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes made the clarification as he explained that there was still a possibility a public bidding would be conducted for the actual repair of the PCOS machines that were used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.

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“What we approved was only the first stage, which is the diagnostics of the PCOS,” Brillantes said, explaining that Smartmatic, being the supplier of the machines, was in the best position to determine if there were glitches in them.

But the Comelec still has to negotiate the contract with Smartmatic to determine if the diagnostics could be done at a lower price, he further said in a radio interview.

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Although Smartmatic had obtained the Comelec’s approval to do the diagnostics, Brillantes said a public bidding may be conducted for the P900-million repair contract for the PCOS machines.

“We decided to let Smartmatic examine the machines, then we can hold a public bidding, if needed, for the actual repair,” he said.

Brillantes said he and Election Commissioners Elias Yusoph and Lucenito Tagle would no longer be involved in the deliberations for awarding the repair contract since they could be retiring next month.

The impending retirement of the three would leave Christian Lim, Luie Guia, Al Parreño and Arthur Lim as the commissioners of the Comelec.

The Comelec said in a resolution that it had opted to contract directly with Smartmatic for the PCOS diagnostics because “time is of the essence” in the preparations for the 2016 elections.

“Note that it is already December and the bids and awards committee has a little more than 60 days to conduct the bidding. So the two-stage procurement is not within the timeline,” said the resolution dated Dec. 23, 2014.

In the same resolution, the poll body also said that the job of conducting the diagnostics was being given to Smartmatic since the Comelec did not want to take the risk of allowing a third-party provider to handle the “highly technical nature” of the project.

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“If the Comelec would allow third parties other than Smartmatic to repair the machines, there is a dangerous risk of damaging the integrity of the system as the third party provider may not be able to fully refurbish the machines because the workings and technology of the machines are not familiar to them,” the resolution said.

It said that it would pose a greater risk to the Comelec to give the refurbishment to another provider other than the manufacturer of the PCOS machines.

Malacañang on Tuesday said the Comelec should be given the opportunity to explain the P2 billion contract it allegedly awarded recently to Smartmatic for the refurbishing of the voting machines.

“We share the citizens’ concerns on the integrity of the electoral process. At the same time, we recognize that the Commission on Elections is an independent constitutional body,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told a press briefing.

Because the Comelec is an independent constitutional body, “our presumption is that they are following the law, and they have the chance to prove it and show a sufficient explanation to all the questions raised by the people,” Coloma said.

The Comelec-Smartmatic project to refurbish the PCOS machines has drawn opposition because of its cost a year and a half before the 2016 presidential elections.

Among its critics is Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III who said that the cost of refurbishing the PCOS machines should be less.–With a report from Nikko Dizon

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TAGS: Comelec, contract, Elections, PCOS machines, Smartmatic
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