Group wants payments to Smartmatic halted

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 05 2013 02:40 PM | Updated as of Jun 05 2013 10:40 PM

MANILA - Poll watchdog Kontra Daya held a protest today in front of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office to call for the scrapping of Smartmatic's automated election system (AES).

The group cited the problems encountered during the 2013 elections, which they said cast doubt on the result of the polls.

The group destroyed a mock up precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine as part of the picket and urged politicians and candidates to join them in their call to block Smartmatic's possible participation in the 2016 elections.

Some 50 people joined the street protest.

Kontra Daya convenor Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said there is no assurance that the PCOS machines counted the votes accurately.

In a separate statement, Kontra Daya convenor Dr. Gani Tapang said that all past and future payments made by the Comelec to Smartmatic should be audited and that no further payments should be made to Smartmatic on account of the massive failure of PCOS machines on Election Day.

In its website, Smartmatic claimed that the 2013 election was a success, making the Philippines a showcase of its international operations.

The foreign group claims to have sold Comelec 80,916 PCOS machines, 1,684 totalization and consolidation servers and printers, 164,400 compact flash memory cards for secure storage of election data, 48,000 modems and 46,000 SIM cards that were used for direct transmission of election returns, 5,000 mobile satellite antennas (BGAN) and 680 VSATs for transmission of results in the polling and totalization centers with little or no cellular coverage, 2 Data Centers created to backup nationwide results with redundancy capabilities and 5,853 spare PCOS machines for contingencies, along with other services.

The Comelec bought the PCOS machines from Smartmatic for P1.8 billion.

Tapang said the recently concluded polls were filled with
"so many problems which include the failure of some 18,000 machines to transmit results on Election Day, problematic CF cards, malfunctioning PCOS machines along with an error with the transparency server that bloated initial results from 1,400 precincts."

He urged Comelec to divulge how much it has paid Smartmatic so far and how much the automation supplier is billing Comelec.

Kontra Daya also wanted to know happened to the 5,000 mobile satellite antennas and VSATs that were supposedly deployed to areas with weak or no cellular coverage.

"If these really worked, why is it that some 30% of the PCOS machines still failed to transmit results on Election Day?" Tapang said.

Kontra Daya said that Smartmatic's recent statement giving itself a pat on the back is an indication that it will still be around for the 2016 presidential elections.

"Our people as well as our elected officials should be genuinely concerned that Smartmatic wants to reprise its role for the 2016 elections. Smartmatic is here to stay unless we take action and make it and Comelec accountable for the questionable conduct of the 2013 elections," he said.

Comelec still owes Smartmatic P270M

The Comelec has paid Smartmatic all but P270 million of the P1.8 billion for the purchase of the PCOS driven automated election system used in the 2013 and 2010 national elections.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body will hold on to the P270 million, which is equivalent to the 15% retention fee of Smartmatic, till all accountabilities on Smartmatic's end have been settled.

He said Comelec's purchase of the AES gives it a perpetual license to use the system, dispelling notions it can no longer be used in the 2016 elections and future elections.

This is after the poll watchdog Kontra Daya picketed the Comelec office to ask for the junking of the PCOS machines.

"The PCOS belongs to us already. We already paid for it. What more do they want? I think it is hardware binili namin. As far as I know, it's a perpetual license.”

The poll chief then renewed his challenge to critics to pick a ballot box and show the votes that were erroneously counted.

"Sagot ko naman simple lang. Paano nakita problema? Nasa labas sila. Ano nakikita nila? Sila di alam nangyayari dito. Bakit di sila umakyat dito para pakita ko lahat ng detalye? Tell us what’s wrong with the PCOS and not doubts. Give us specifics,” he said.

Brillantes also added he will no longer resign as poll chief but will finish his term till 2015. He said he is set to go on a vacation. "Wala nang resignation. Tapos na trabaho. Retirement ko ok naman election. Konti lang di naniniwala sa akin. Di naman nagbabago nagrereklamo, sila pa rin,” he said.