Smartmatic bags P1.2-B contract with Comelec

By Sheila Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jan 05 2015 07:59 AM | Updated as of Jan 05 2015 03:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Voting 5-2, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to tap Smartmatic Total Information Management Corp. to refurbish the 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the May 2016 presidential polls.

With this development, the poll body will no longer bid out a contract for the repair of the voting machines.

“The Comelec en banc has opted to give the project to Smartmatic, with 5-2 votes before the Christmas break. So there will no longer be a public bidding on this,” a Comelec source said over the weekend.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes along with Commissioners Lucenito Tagle, Elias Yusoph, Christian Robert Lim and Al Parreño voted to extend the warranty of the PCOS machines with Smartmatic.

Those who opposed the proposal were Commissioners Luie Guia and Arthur Lim.

The refurbishing deal is worth P1.2 billion. The source said Smartmatic originally wanted P1.3 billion but was persuaded by the Comelec to bring it down to P1.2 billion.

The amount covers diagnostic services worth P300 million, refurbishing and replacement of spare parts.

Smartmatic supplied the voting machines for P1.2 billion, which the Comelec first used in the 2010 general elections. The same machines were used in the 2013 midterm polls.

The warranty of the PCOS machines ended in December 2013. The voting machines need to be refurbished before they can be used for the 2016 general elections.

Citing glitches, critics had questioned the reliability and accuracy of the voting machines and called for a public bidding to refurbish the PCOS machines.

The Comelec’s law department earlier expressed a legal opinion that the poll body can exercise the extended warranty provided by Smartmatic as long as the firm can prove that it is the only one that can provide the necessary services to PCOS machines.

Smartmatic and its rival, Indra Sistemas S.A., had indicated their intention to refurbish the voting machines.

“The en banc was advised by BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) that the timeline will not be met if the Comelec holds a public bidding. Because of this, it decided to extend the warranty of the PCOS machines,” the source said.

Smartmatic had maintained that the company has the exclusive rights over the PCOS machines, and therefore it has sole authority to refurbish the equipment for the 2016 presidential elections.

Earlier, Brillantes said it would be better for the Comelec to enter into a negotiated contract with Smartmatic instead of holding a public bidding due to time constraints. But he gave assurances that the poll body is looking into all issues concerning Smartmatic.