Smartmatic-TIM says COMELEC also delayed

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN NEWS

Posted at Dec 16 2009 08:42 PM | Updated as of Dec 17 2009 04:53 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Smartmatic-TIM cried foul over critics' attacks on the adjusted delivery schedule for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines which will be used in the May 2010 polls.

Smartmatic-Asia President Cesar Flores said "enemies" of the automation are making a big deal out of the issue when, in fact, the delay is only in terms of shipment, not in the production line at Qisda Factory in Suzhou, China.

Flores said the adjusted schedule was mutually agreed upon by the Automation Project Management Office (PMO) of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and Smartmatic-TIM following their two-month battle at the Supreme Court against the Concerned Citizens' Movement (CCM).

The CCM filed a petition before the High Court in July, seeking to nullify the P7.2 billion automation contract. This, Flores said, placed COMELEC at a cautious stance when it comes to payments for every deliverable stipulated in the contract.

"Smartmatic-TIM has already shelled out P4 billion for the project, we have received only P1 billion from COMELEC. The first payment was delayed for 58 days, the second was delayed for 37 days and the third and fourth payments are now delayed by 19 days as of today. This is why we had agreements on the adjustment on delivery schedules, too, because these payment delays also had dramatic implications on how the project is funded," Flores said.

Flores further said this is one thing the public does not know--that there are also delays on the part of the COMELEC, but that the poll body should not be blamed for that because the SC case affected the course of the project.

"We do not blame anybody, because we know the CCM petition tied so many people's hands that we couldn't get going as fast as we all wanted to. More importantly, we are all partners in this and the COMELEC PMO and Smartmatic-TIM are mutually coming to these agreements and adjustments. Article 15 of the contract also allows extensions on the deliverables so this is something that we can do," he added.

'Gentleman's agreement'

COMELEC spokesman James Jimenez confirmed a "gentleman's agreement" was forged between COMELEC and Smartmatic-TIM. Jimenez said this is why the COMELEC sees no reason, at this point, to hold the vendor liable for delivery delays.

"There is no election-related activity stalled attributable to the absence of the machines as of now. No major preparation has been affected. For example, mock elections and fields tests are scheduled to be conducted next year yet, we continue the relationship with Smartmatic-TIM and see no reason to impose sanctions or penalty charges at this point, as long as they are able to deliver all 82,200 machines in February," Jimenez said.

Around 42,000 PCOS machines should have already been delivered by Smartmatic-TIM by year-end. But the adjusted schedule allows delivery in batches. For December, Smartmatic has only committed to deliver 10,000 machines due to shipment traffic.

The CCM told ABS-CBN News yesterday that these changes in delivery schedules are a ground to rescind the automation contract.