SC urged to junk purchase of Smartmatic PCOS machines

Report by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 10 2012 12:46 PM | Updated as of Apr 10 2012 10:20 PM

MANILA, Philippines  (2nd UPDATE) - Various  petitions were filed with the Supreme Court (SC) today against the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) purchase of election technology provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management's (TIM) precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for over P1 billion.

The petitions sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Deed of Sale between the poll body and Smartmatic-TIM last March 30, and the contract's nullification.

Davao City Archbishop Fernando Capalla, former Marawi City Mayor Omar Ali, and former Quezon City Rep. Mary Anne Susano filed their petition at 8:40 in the morning, followed by the Solidarity for Sovereignty (S4S), represented by Ma. Linda Montayre, Ramon Pedrosa, Benjamin Paulino, Sr., Evelyn Coronel, and Nelson Montayre filed their petition at 1:04 pm. The Automated Election System (AES) Watch filed their petition at past 2 in the afternoon.

The petitions argued that the Comelec's purchase of the PCOS machines is "illegal and unlawful" following the lapse on Dec. 31, 2010 of the option to order in its contract with Smartmatic-TIM inked on June 9, 2009 for the automation of the May 2010 presidential elections; any purchase of technology and election systems for use in the 2013 midterm polls should have undergone public bidding; and there were glitches, delays, defects and technical problems encountered in the 2010 presidential polls that violated Republic Act (RA) No. 9369 (Automated Election System Act).

"When Smartmatic-TIM should have been reprimanded for these defects which damage caused amounts to millions of pesos and maybe even disenfranchisement of voters, Respondent Comelec even awarded them by favoring the purchase of these defective PCOS machines," said the petition filed by Capalla's group.

The S4S petition, meantime, said: "[T]he need and desire to automate our election process must be safeguarded by the diligence of our constitutionally mandated electoral agency that can properly and prudently implement a well-conceived automated election system. It cannot and should not exchange these rights with the excuse of expediency and cost efficiency."

Speaking on behalf of AES Watch, former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. stressed the need for a public bidding for the machines and technology to be used in next year's elections.

"The glitches, they (Smartmatic-TIM) could not explain it.... and now we are going to reward them again? I think we should take cognizance of the lapses, glitches," he said. 

Smartmatic-TIM was awarded the contract for the automation of the 2010 polls on June 9, 2009.

The contract contained an option to purchase up to Dec. 31, 2010, which Smartmatic-TIM extended up to March 31, 2012.

Comelec formally accepted Smartmatic-TIM's offer of extension last March 27 and approved the Deed of Sale for the total amount of P1.8 billion last March 30.