MANILA - The Filipino company Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) said Tuesday it is backing out its joint venture agreement on the poll automation project because its foreign partner, Smartmatic, will have more control over project operations.
In an interview with radio dzMM, lawyer Boy De Borja of TIM would not go into details, but said the Filipino partners had been negotiating with Smartmatic officials for greater control of the consortium's operations.
"We should be the last one to do, or not do anything, which will undermine every Filipino's longing for clean and honest elections through automation. The 60-40 law is a declaration, there's a reason for it. We're supposed to see to it that everything is done right," he said.
He added that if TIM agrees to have Smartmatic be the more dominant partner in the joint venture, this would not be consistent with the 60-40 rule since it is TIM, as the majority partner, who should have more control of the operations.
He noted that TIM could end up holding the bag if something wrong happens to the poll automation project next year.
"We are the Filipino in this so-called joint venture. We will be the one left behind and prosecuted. Of course, we have a recourse, we can go after them, but they can just go anytime," the lawyer said.
"We have to make sure that the integrity...is absolute and beyond doubt. As the Filipino in the joint venture, kami dapat ang magsisiguro na mangyayari iyon," de Borja said when asked why it is backing out of the partnership.
The lawyer insisted TIM's backing out was "not a sudden thing." He said they have tried to hang on to their partnership with Smartmatic since they want to help realize the Filipino people's desire for automated elections.
He said TIM is aware of the possible legal implications it may face by backing out of the project.
"We know that we can be pilloried because of this. Mas mabuti na ngayon na kaysa during the elections," De Borja said.
Best for country
Cesar Flores, Smartmatic's international sales director, meanwhile, called on TIM to “rectify” its shortcoming and do what’s best for the country by “honoring its commitment to the Philippines.”
“We were legally bound by this agreement to incorporate a joint venture company,” Flores said.
He added that the TIM is complaining about issues that were previously agreed upon by the two companies before it joined the Comelec bidding for the automation project.
Aside from these issues, he said TIM is basically complaining against a guideline set by the Comelec itself.
“It’s a requirement of Comelec. In the terms of reference, the company with the biggest experience in automation, which in this case is Smartmatic, is the one that has to guarantee technology, software, transmission and operations of elections. We are, indeed, in charge of the operations,” Flores said.
He said Smartmatic is still open to reconciling with the TIM and was still committed to honor the automation contract with the Comelec.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo has given the two companies until Friday (July 3) to settle their dispute and sign the automation contract.
Melo had said that if the two companies fail to reconcile, the automation of the 2010 elections might not push through.
He said the Comelec is considering the option of signing a partnership with Smartmatic if TIM would still refuse to enter into the joint venture.
Comelec should be blamed
Former Comelec chairman Christian Monsod, in the same dzMM program with Ted Failon, said the poll body is to be blamed if the 2010 automated elections fail to push through.
“The Comelec should not try to blame everybody else. Kung nagkaroon ng failure of bidding, sila po ang unang-unang accountable dyan,” Monsod said.
He said that with the Comelec’s broad powers, it can dictate how the bidding and the automation should happen.
Monsod urged the Comelec to shun its belief that there is no other way but to stay manual if the automation fails to push through.
“Sana hindi total manual ang option,” he said, adding that the poll body should now seriously consider his suggestion for an “open election system” or hybrid--half manual, half automated--elections.
If the Comelec is left with no recourse but to hold manual elections, he said Melo should at least make sure that no one in the poll body will be involved in election cheating, like former commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.
“They should study the 1992 and 1998 elections. Those are totally manual… generally accepted by the people. It is possible for Comelec to conduct manual elections,” he said.