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Election timeline may be delayed by 2 months

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MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections’ timeline in acquiring the voting system for the 2016 polls may be pushed back by up to two months if there will be a failure of bidding.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the target is to award the lease contracts for the direct recording electronic (DRE) and optical mark reader (OMR) machines next month. But with the disqualification of bidders Smartmatic and Indra Sistemas S.A., the schedule might have to be adjusted.

The Comelec Bids and Awards Committee found that the financial proposals submitted by both bidders were “non-responsive” so they were disqualified. The firms were given three days to file their motions for reconsideration.

In case BAC does not reverse its decision, it will recommend to the Comelec the declaration of a “failure of bidding” and another bidding will be held.

The two companies can join again the bidding but they will be on equal footing with other interested bidders.

Meanwhile, the Comelec has defended before the Supreme Court (SC) its contract with technology provider Smartmatic-TIM for the diagnostics and repair of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used for the 2016 polls.

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In an 80-page consolidated comment filed through Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, Comelec asked the SC to dismiss the petitions filed by election watchdogs Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) and Automated Election System (AES) seeking to stop the P268.8-million deal.

The Comelec stressed that its Resolution 9922 issued last Dec. 30, 2014 awarding the contract to Smartmatic without public bidding did not violate Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Comelec explained that direct contracting is legal under Section 52 (h) of the Omnibus Election Code that allows negotiations and sealed bids in cases where the poll body finds requirements of public bidding impractical to observe.

The poll body stressed that the Omnibus Election Code was not repealed by the passage and implementation of RA 9184.

“While RA 9184 mandates that all government procurement should be by competitive bidding, it also allows for alternative modes of procurement such as direct contracting as long as the requisites therefore are present. In this case, Comelec found that, due to the highly technical nature of the PCOS machines, the refurbishment services can only be sourced from Smartmatic-TIM,” read the pleading.

The Comelec noted that the method of direct contracting is pragmatic, considering the limited budget of P16.815 billion allocated for next year’s polls.

The poll body also raised the specter of a “partly manual and partly automated elections” in 2016 if the PCOS machines are not refurbished on time. Such a predicament would result in the problems raised in previous elections such as delay, electoral fraud, massive disenfranchisement of voters and distrust in the electoral system.

Comelec believed that to give the repair and refurbishment of the PCOS machines to any third party provider other than Smartmatic-TIM would be too great a risk, considering the highly technical nature of the work to be done on the 82,000 PCOS machines. – With Edu Punay


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