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Comelec signs contract with Smartmatic to buy PCOS machines

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. (third from right) and Smartmatic-TIM president Alberto Castro (third from left) sign the Deed of Sale for the purchase by Comelec of the PCOS machines for the 2013 midterm elections. The machines were first used in the 2010 presidential elections.

MANILA, Philippines - It’s official.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday signed a contract with Smartmatic International Corp. and its Filipino partner, Total Information Management Corp., to purchase and reuse the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 polls.

Comelec Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said they decided to buy the PCOS machines after Smartmatic agreed not to increase its price and to correct the deficiencies and glitches seen in the machines in 2010.

“We agreed to exercise our option to purchase the machines. Last Friday, we signed a resolution authorizing our chairman (to do this). We will be buying close to 82,000 (machines) for P1.8 billion,” Tagle said.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes signed the contract with Alberto Castro of Smartmatic.

According to Brillantes, the contract includes the consolidation and canvassing system of Smartmatic at no cost to Comelec.

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The agency was also given a one-year warranty by the Netherland-based firm.

“We got a very good deal. We don’t even have to pay down payment, we will pay them when they deliver. And Smartmatic waived the fees for some services that we required of them,” he added.

The option to purchase was provided for in the July 2009 contract between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM that expired on Dec. 31, 2010.

Smartmatic offered an extended contract up to March 31, 2012, prompting the Comelec to accept the deal before the contract expired yesterday.

Brillantes assured the public that Smartmatic was able to do the “major corrections” in the machines, especially on the aspect of security.

“Our people have inspected the machines and they found them in good condition. Smartmatic had maintained them well because they were hoping that we will exercise our option to purchase,” he added.

Brillantes said they also required Smartmatic to do some enhancements, including the configuration of the machines to include the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional polls that were synchronized with the 2013 elections.

“Smartmatic assured us that they can do the configurations but they were charging fees for that. We told them to just include that without additional costs. We have been assailed for choosing Smartmatic so we asked them to make some sacrifices,” he added.

Under the contract, Smartmatic will deliver at least 20,000 PCOS machines in four batches.

Smartmatic has been keeping the machines in a warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna after the 2010 elections.

“We did not agree to Smartmatic’s condition that we shoulder the rentals of the warehouse prior to delivery. If they deliver one-fourth of the machines, then we will pay one-fourth of the rentals. We will assign our own people to secure the machines in the warehouse,” Brillantes said.

In the 2010 elections, Smartmatic-TIM were contracted to lease some 82,000 PCOS machines to Comelec for P7.9 billion but almost 1,000 of the machines were purchased by the poll body for use in electoral protest cases.

Meanwhile, a poll watchdog group yesterday said the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC) on poll automation should oversee the Comelec preparations for next year’s elections after failing to review the 2010 polls.

Bobby Tuazon, Center for People Empowerment in Governance director for policy studies, said the JCOC can make up for such failure by making sure that Comelec will comply with the laws and policies on automated elections.

“The JCOC has to oversee the preparations being done by the Comelec to make sure that it complies with all the provisions of the law,’’ Tuazon said, referring to Republic Act 9369 or the Poll Automated Law.

Under the law, the JCOC is mandated to convene and assess an election after one year.

Tuazon pointed out that the JCOC would have guided the Comelec in deciding what technology would be used in the 2013 polls had it fulfilled its mandate of evaluating the last elections.

He added that the JCOC can still validate the decision of the Comelec to purchase and use the PCOS machines that it rented from Smartmatic in 2010. – With Jess Diaz

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