Ruling on TRO petition out before automation contract signing


Posted at Jul 10 2009 09:24 AM | Updated as of Jul 11 2009 02:34 AM

MANILA - The Supreme Court (SC) will try to rule on a petition filed by lawyers to stop the signing of the contract to automate the 2010 polls before the scheduled signing of the contract Friday afternoon.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), the joint venture that won the bid to automate the Philippine elections, are set to sign the contract at 2 p.m. Friday, July 10.

SC spokesman Midas Marquez told ANC’s News@8 that the court will try to rule on the petition before the 2 p.m. contract signing of the P7.2-billion election automation project.

Marquez said the case will be raffled at 10 a.m.

“It will initially be assigned to a justice. That justice will make a preliminary study on the petition, and if there is a merit for the issuance of a TRO, he can recommend the issuance of a TRO,” the court spokesman said. “There is reasonable time to study that petition.”

He said the justice to whom the case will be assigned will issue a TRO “if there are circumstances that will affect the case that cannot be undone.”

Machines not pilot-tested

In a 49-page petition, a group of 10 lawyers and concerned citizens said the Comelec and the winning group for the automation project violated Republic Act 9369, the automated elections law.

Harry Roque, who led the filing of the petition, said the groups fears the violations committed by the two groups might lead to a “no elections” scenario and a repeat of the Mega Pacific project, the P1.3 billion automation deal that the High Court junked in 2004.

Roque said the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines of Smartmatic-TIM have not been pilot-tested by the Comelec, a violation of the automated elections law, which says machines that will be used in the 2010 elections should be tested first in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The Comelec tapped Smartmatic International in the ARMM elections.

Roque said that according to the Smartmatic's own website, the machines that will be bought for the automated elections have a 2 to 10 percent margin of error, which violates Comelec’s requirement of a 1.5 percent error margin.

He added that the 2 to 10 percent margin of error could translate to an erroneous count of 1.5 million votes to five million votes in favor of or against a candidate.

“Can you imagine the impact of 1.5 to five million votes on a candidate?” he said.

No stopping contract signing

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said Thursday that the poll body will push through with the contract signing in spite of the petition.

“The Comelec believes its process is aboveboard. And the law is very clear that during the national elections following its passage, the polls should already be fully automated,” Melo said.

He said however that he welcomes the petition and added that the SC is a better venue to discuss rather than “anywhere else.”