Watchdog to ask SC to nullify PCOS machines contract

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 02 2012 01:33 PM | Updated as of Apr 02 2012 09:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Election watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify the contract inked on Friday between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) for the purchase of 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines amounting to P1.8 billion.

The machines, which were used in the May 2010 presidential elections, will be used in the 2013 midterm polls, the Comelec said.

Speaking to reporters at the SC, former Vice-president Teofisto Guingona said the deal was suspicious and should have gone through public bidding.

"The Comelec purchased the machines way beyond the allowed period; they bought the machines even when there were so many system flaws and technical glitches in the 2010 elections," Guingona pointed out. 

AES Watch said these glitches include, among others, delays in the delivery of the machines, disabling of the ultra violet (UV) scanner, absence of a digital signature, the recall of thousands of compact flash (CF) cards days before election day, erroneous elections returns (ER), and result transmission problems.

In a statement, AES Watch said: "Instead of making Smartmatic-TIM accountable for its non-compliance with the law (Republic Act No. 9369) and system errors, four Comelec Commissioners -- remnants of the old Commission -- and the Chairman (Atty. Sixto Brillantes) chose to reward this foreign company with yet another deal."

"Instead of heeding the concerns and voices of IT practitioners, its own IT Commissioner (Gus Lagman), the Comelec Advisory Counsil (CAC) which recommended twice against the 'option to purchase,' and the former Director of its Law Department (Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan), the... Comelec Commissioners decided in favor of the marketing company.

"The option to purchase the Smartmatic PCOS machines was still being resolved in Congress but the new deal signed last Friday is a breach of fair play and democratic consultation on the part of Comelec," the statement read.

The Comelec, however, assured the public last Friday that "major corrections" were already made on the PCOS machines. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the machines were inspected and were found to be in "good condition."

AES Watch lawyer Felix Carao, Jr. said they will urge the SC to restrain the implementation of the contract.

"We will file a petition for certiorari with prayer for issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to restrain the implementation of that contract. It's been signed, but we will ask the Supreme Court to stop its implementation," Carao said.

The July 2009 contract between the poll body and Smartmatic-TIM for the 2010 polls provided for an option to purchase that expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Smartmatic offered an extended contract up to March 31, 2012. Comelec accepted the deal a day before the offered extension expired.

The 2010 polls marked the first-ever nationwide automation of elections in the Philippines.