'TIM president ended cool off with Smartmatic to save firm'


Posted at Jul 04 2009 12:22 PM | Updated as of Jul 05 2009 12:01 AM

MANILA - Commission on Elections (Comelec) legal chief Ferdinand Rafanan said Saturday that Total Information Management Corp. (TIM) president Jose Mari Antuñez pushed through with the partnership with Barbados-based Smartmatic International to save his company.

Rafanan said that before TIM agreed to return to its partnership with Smartmatic, he warned Antuñez that his backing out from the P7.1 billion automation contract would mean "goodbye to your company."

"Oo nga (Yes, indeed)," Rafanan said quoting Antuñez's reply to his warning.

He said that during the Smartmatic-TIM's week-long cooling off period, Antuñez contacted him and assured him that he's an honest person. Rafanan said he believed the businessman because his IT solutions company serves big companies in the country, including MetroBank and Unionbank.

Rafanan, meanwhile, assured that the Comelec will have overall control of the automated elections system. He said if ever the two IT companies encounter internal problems during the project's implementation, the Comelec can intervene and fix these as long as they are related to the 2010 automation project.

The poll official said the short-lived rift between TIM and Smartmatic is a blessing in disguise as it would make both companies more vigilant. He, however, said the possibility of the two companies engaging in electronic election fraud is remote.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo on Friday afternoon announced that Smartmatic and TIM had already settled their differences and that both companies were already in the process of finalizing their joint venture incorporation papers.

Melo said the poll body and the Smartmatic-TIM might be able to sign the multi-billion automation contract by Friday next week.

The poll chief said the two companies was able to defuse the rift after Antuñez "allowed the greater interest of the country to prevail.”

He added: “Whatever internal arrangement (they have), it’s between them.”

Rafanan said among the disagreements patched up during a meeting between Smartmatic and TIM officials was the control over the disbursement of funds.

He said the Smartmatic agreed to grant TIM the authority during disagreements in the disbursement of funds.

"Ang nasa rules natin ay ang TIM ang magde-decide... Ngayon, pumayag na sila dahil iyan ang nasa existing rules," the poll official said.