'Comelec making CCM scapegoat for poll preparation delay'

By Jesus F. Llanto, Newsbreak

Posted at Nov 12 2009 07:24 PM | Updated as of Nov 13 2009 03:24 AM

Group says poll body was behind sked even before they questioned the contract before the SC

The Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM), the group that questioned the legality of the contract for the first nationwide automated elections, on Thursday said that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had nobody but itself to blame for the delay in the poll preparations.

Lawyer Harry Roque, counsel for the CCM, was reacting to a statement made by Comelec chair Jose Melo on Wednesday that preparations for the elections have been set back by a month because of the case filed by the CCM.

The movement said that Comelec itself was the cause of the delay in poll preparations because it awarded the contract for the automation of the 2010 elections nearly two months past the intended date.

Roque said that according to the request proposal, the Comelec scheduled the signing of the automation contract on May 21, 2009, but the poll body and Smartmatic-TIM only signed the contract on July 10, 2009.

“This was already a delay of one and a half months! And this one and a half months delay in the contract signing occurred even before the CCM filed its petition before the Supreme Court last July 10, 2009.”

Contradicting statements
The CCM filed a petition questioning the legality of the contract and asking the high tribunal to nullify the P7-billion contract between the poll body and Smartmatic-TIM, the firm that will supply the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) to be used for the 2010 elections. The SC dismissed the petition, but the CCM has filed an appeal.

Roque also said that despite CCM’s plea for the tribunal to temporarily stop the proceedings because of many technical and legal questions about the contract, it refused to issue a temporary restraining order.

“Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM were never prevented from implementing the said contract,” he said.

The poll body, Roque said, contradicted itself because Melo and executive director and project manager Jose Tolentino had appeared in previous interviews with the media, saying that the poll preparation was on schedule despite the suit.

“So why should Comelec Chairperson Melo now contradict himself and blame the CCM’s petition as the cause of the delay? We can only surmise that the Comelec is making the CCM the scapegoat for the constitutional commission’s lack of adequate preparation and experience in implementing the automation of the 2010 polls,” said Roque.

Newsbreak tried to get a reaction from Melo, but he declined to comment on the statement issued by the CCM. (Newsbreak)