2013 automated polls in jeopardy: Brillantes

by Billy Jane Ramos, ANC

Posted at Apr 25 2012 01:11 AM | Updated as of Apr 25 2012 09:11 AM

MANILA, Philippines - An automated 2013 election may be in jeopardy, Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said Tuesday.

At its en banc session in Baguio City, the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the Comelec's purchase of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 mid-term polls.

The ruling favors 3 separate petitions against the P1.8-billion contract between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM.

Smartmatic provided the automated election system during the 2010 elections and offered to sell the 82,000 PCOS machines used 2 years ago.

Comelec accepted the offer last March 30.

However, the petitioners against the deal argue that Comelec's option to purchase lapsed on December 31, 2010 and may no longer be unilaterally extended by Smartmatic.

The petitioners added that the poll body should have conducted a public bidding for the purchase or lease of technology, equipment, and facilities for the upcoming mid-term elections.

But the poll body said it will need time to prepare if the high court orders a public bidding.

Petitioners also pointed out that Smartmatic's machines should not be bought because of glitches encountered in 2010.

Comelec chief Sixto Brillantes Jr. told ANC this is not an issue.

"A majority of these glitches, these bugs, had already been resolved. We had more than a year. We've been doing this for the last year," he said.

No to Stone Age

If the issue is not resolved soon, Brillantes warned that the country may lose its gains in the 2010 elections.

"The Supreme Court is aware na talagang urgent itong issue na 'to. It has to be settled immediately and that's what we're asking the SC, kasi any delay in the resolution will affect our preparations for the May 2013 elections, and we don't want to go back to Stone Age, which is manual. Hindi naman dapat, after a qualified success we had in 2010," he said.

Oral arguments on the case will be held on May 2.

"I got in touch immediately with the Solicitor General to prepare our comment to be filed before the May 2 oral arguments," Brillantes said.