Group readies petition vs Smartmatic-TIM-Comelec contract signing


Posted at Jul 08 2009 01:17 PM | Updated as of Jul 08 2009 09:17 PM

A group led by lawyer Harry Roque will ask the Supreme Court on Friday to stop the signing of the P7.2-billion poll automation project between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Smartmatic-TIM (Total Information Management Corp.) consortium.

Roque said he will meet with members of the Concerned Citizens Movement on Wednesday afternoon to review the final draft of the petition for certiorari with a prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, which they will file before the Supreme Court on Thursday.

"We are planning to file this tomorrow before it becomes moot and academic," he said, adding that the petition should be filed before the scheduled contract signing between the Comelec and the winning consortium on Friday.

He said they will finalize during the meeting the strong basis of the petition, which will include the Smartmatic-TIM's joint venture agreement that they submitted to the Comelec during the bidding process.

Roque said the consortium failed to completely disclose in the joint venture agreement the details and conditions of their partnership, particularly the issue of who has more control and power over the consortium's funds.

The lawyer said their strongest evidence is the "irreconcilable differences" cited by Filipino partner TIM during its cool off with Smartmatic. The fight over the control of the consortium's funds almost derailed the Comelec's automation project.

The two companies were able to patch things up during an overnight meeting last week.

In a Senate hearing, TIM president Jose Mari Antuñez admitted that the rift was prompted by the one-sidedness of its joint venture agreement with Smartmatic.

While the new corporation to be formed by the two is supposed to be a 60-40 partnership, with TIM as the local partner enjoying the controlling share, “the truth is they [Smarmatic] have to do 90 percent (of the project) and TIM, as the value-added partner, 10 percent,” Antuñez said.

This prompted Blue Ribbon chair Senator Richard Gordon to comment that TIM is only a “token partner.”

Sen. Francis Escudero noted that while TIM may have the majority share in the corporate structure, it actually “has no control.”

Comelec chair Jose Melo basically agreed, saying that the poll body initially sought an exemption from the 60-40 percent requirement for those who will bid in the P11.2 billion automation project. But the poll body failed to get the exemption from the Department of Finance.

Hinting of a possible legal problem in the future from the set-up, Escudero urged the Comelec to have a contingency plan in case the automation project hits another bump.