MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has signed the resolution awarding the automation contract for 2010 polls to Smartmatic-TIM consortium, overcoming a big hurdle in the automation of the elections.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, speaking to ABS-CBN News Channel's Top Story newscast, said that the contract will be formally awarded to Smartmatic-TIM at the Comelec office on Wednesday.
The SBAC will notify Smartmatic about the decision, and the contract will then be prepared, signed and processed, after a review by Comelec consultants.
The Smartmatic-TIM bidder consortium, which pegged its bid at P7.2 billion, has so far passed the poll body's technical evaluation.
It is required to provide 82,200 precinct count optical scan machines for the 2010 poll automation.
Several bidding observers have endorsed the SBAC recommendation, namely the Comelec Advisory Council, Transparency and Accountability Network, Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, and Office of the Ombudsman, according to Comelec chairman Jose Melo.
Comelec will ask Smartmatic-TIM to issue a performance bond which is equivalent to 10-15% of their P7.2 billion bid. This is to start the manufacture of the machines.
The chairman also said they will publish the bids of Smartmatic and Indra Systems, the two companies that reached the financial bid phase, for transparency.
Melo said that aside from producing the machines, the storage of the machines will be handled by Smartmatic until the elections date.
"Ang delivery ho niyan ay by batches. Let us say a batch of 1000 or 2000 come in, and they immediately test it here, then they will be stored. As they come, they will be tested and stored ," Melo said.
He said that the machines will be stored most probably in provincial capitals, to facilitate delivery come election day.
Melo said that he is "very much relieved" about this development in the lead up to the 2010 polls.
"I am very much relieved that the elections will be online. We will go through with the elections by all means," Melo said.
Melo has also discounted "rumors" about the postponement of the elections due to possible changes to the 1987 Constitution, which is being pushed by Palace allies in the House of Representatives through the passage of House Resolution 1109.
"I discount those rumors already, because right now the only thing which can derail - from a practical point of view - the 2010 elections is an earlier plebiscite, postponing the elections, meaning to say. But we have no time for that anymore," he said.
"If at all there will be changes in the Constitution, they will have to be submitted [for plebiscite]... together with the 2010 elections or after the 2010 elections na," he said.
He said a possible plebiscite could be included in the automated elections, but there could still be problems, especially if the plebiscite requires a lot of questions.
"[Pwede ipilit] kung magagawa nila yun, pero wala nang time," Melo said. -- With a report from the ABS-CBN News Channel