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Poll watchdogs ask SC to cite Comelec, Smartmatic execs in contempt

/ 04:36 PM August 26, 2015

ELECTION watchdogs on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to cite in contempt officials of the Commission on Election (Comelec) and Smartmatic-Total Information Management for its failure to comply with its obligation of refurbishing the existing 82, 000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

In a 16-page motion for intervention, former Comelec official and convenor of the Citizens for Clean and Honest Elections Melchor Magdamo and Leon Estrella, founder of the Anti-Trapo Movement Inc. (ATM), said the machines used during the May 13, 2013 elections are full of defects. It should be repaired by Smartmatic because the warranty period has not yet lapsed.

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Petitioners said Comelec need not pay anything for the refurbishment of the PCOS machines as the P2-billion it has paid for the technology provider includes the warranty.

“At any rate, Comelec need not worry about the cost because of the warranty imposing upon Smartmatic-TIM at its own expense the obligation to repair or replace any equipment found to contain manufacturing defects. Unfortunately, Smartmatic did not repair or replace any PCOS unit despite the warranty and its extensions,” the petitioners said.

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Petitioners added that Smartmatic has managed to avoid competitive bidding when it insisted that the warranty extension prohibits the poll body from engaging other firms.

“Smartmatic was able to avoid competitive bidding and monopolize poll automation by extending the 2010 option to purchase and using the extension as an excuse for locking out other election technology providers. Now again Smartmatic wants to circumvent competitive bidding by extending the warranty and using the extensions as excuse for castrating Comelec’s freedom to choose more modern election technology providers,” they added.

At the same time, petitioners urged the high court to nullify Comelec Resolution No. 15-0444 issued on June 2, 2015 which allows the re-alignment of funds in order to lease all new 93,977 Optical Mark Readers worth more than P9.5 billion from Smartmatic for use in the 2016 elections.

Comelec Resolution No. 15-044 canceled the lease of Election Management System and the Precinct-Based Direct Recording Electronic worth P32 million and procurement of Voter Verification System for P727 million.

The resolution also realigned the poll body’s unobligated balances from its 2014 maintenance and other operating expenses for the Sangguniang Kabataan registration and elections for its capital outlay requirement for 2016.

They added that the realignment of funds has no legal basis since the poll body has no authority to do that aside from the fact that it would affect the biometric registration of voters.

“The re-alignment of funds under Resolution No. 15-0444 sacrificing other unlawful funds so that Comelec can afford the P9.54 billion budget for what Smartmatic claims to be brand new machines is void because the Comelec has no authority to juggle voters into disenfranchisement because biometric registration is mandatory for a voter to be able to receive her or his one and only official ballot for the May 9, 2016 national and local elections,” they explained.

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Magdamo and Estrella also asked the high court to allow them to intervene in an earlier petition filed by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance and Archbishop Rolando Tirona seeking to declare the Comelec resolution null and void.

Aside from Tirona, those who signed the earlier petition were Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, Bishop Filomeno Bactol, Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Bishop Ramon Villena, Rev. Arthur Corpuz, former senator Francisco Tatad , former Manila Councilor Antonious Belgica and lawyer Glenn Chiong.

Earlier, the Comelec announced that Smartmatic had submitted the lowest bid for the P7.8 billion contract for the supply of the 70,977 OMR units amounting to P6,286,382,682.72.

The Comelec also gave Smartmatic’s bid for the provision of the 23,000 OMR another chance after it granted its protest it earlier filed.

The poll body also declared a failure of bidding for the P2.07 billion contract for the repair and refurbishment of the existing 82, 000 PCOS machines that are still being considered for use in next year’s elections, after no companies submitted an offer for the project. Tetch Torres-Tupas

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TAGS: 2013 elections, Commission on Elections (Comelec), count optical scan (PCOS) machines, Smartmatic-TIM, Supreme Court
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