Smartmatic vows integrity of 2013 automated polls

Christina Mendez - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - A top official of Smartmatic, contractor for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, vowed that the firm is 100 percent committed to ensure the integrity of the computerized machines to be used in next year’s elections.

Cesar Flores, Smartmatic Asia president, said the company’s sole obligation is to provide the Commission on Elections (Comelec) the technology for the computerized polls despite some issues raised by some groups and its subcontractor Dominion Voting Systems International Corp.

Smartmatic supplied the PCOS machines but the firm subcontracted Dominion Voting System for the software that runs the machines during the last 2010 polls and in the coming 2013 elections.

The company has a worldwide licensing agreement to use Dominion’s software, hardware, firmware and technical support to operate the PCOS machines.

But in September, Smartmatic sued Dominion before the Delaware Chancery Court in Florida, after the latter had terminated the contract. The case is still pending.

Local election watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) feared that because of that legal dispute of Smartmatic and Dominion, Smartmatic will not be able to correct the voting system’s deficiencies and this might disrupt the 2013 polls.

AES Watch has asked Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to reconvene the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System (JCOC-AES) to investigate the matter.

Flores told the JCOC-AES hearing last Wednesday at the Senate that Smartmatic has a contract with Comelec and the firm will honor all the clauses in that agreement.

“We stand by our word and we have the legal rights to do so,” he added.

Flores said that his firm is entitled to make modification to the technology license.

He presented to the JCOC-AES the licensing agreement with Dominion, which provides permission for the use of their software in the election modernization project in the Philippines.

“Solely for this project, hereby, grants Smartmatic the right to modify the source code and IP included in the license technology provided that Dominion has been notified in writing in advance of such notification and Dominion is present during the process,” Flores said, reading from the licensing agreement.

Flores said the Supreme Court has also ruled in favor of Smartmatic, granting it “the option to purchase (which) is basically an extension of the 2010 poll modernization project.”

Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who presided over the committee hearing, is relying on the assurance of Smartmatic and Comelec officials that the legal dispute with Dominion would not affect the 2013 elections.

“We want to make sure that we will not revert to manual polls next year just because Smartmatic cannot use (Dominion’s) software,” Cayetano said.

Flores said Smartmatic would deliver at least 40 more machines to enhance the system used in the 2010 presidential polls, in time for next year’s polls.

Flores pointed out that the licensing agreement is good for five years and is tied to Comelec’s purchase of the PCOS machines. He explained that Dominion’s termination of the agreement does not free the subcontractor from complying with the requirements.

“Dominion has never expressed that Comelec cannot use the technology,” Flores said.

During the Senate hearing, Flores faced off with Evita Jimenez of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance and former poll commissioner Gus Lagman, who claimed that the dispute with Dominion would disrupt the 2013 polls.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes pointed out that the Supreme Court has already upheld the contract with Smartmatic.

“Comments are being made by non-legal people discussing legal issues. Being non-legal individuals they interpret allegations in pleadings filed in a foreign country. How can you believe somebody you have never talked to? You are relying on legal documents when you’re not even a lawyer,” Brillantes said.

Brillantes also maintained that the legal dispute between Smartmatic and Dominion would not affect preparations for next year’s elections.

He also accused critics of Smartmatic of “cherry-picking” details from the dispute to suit their opposition.

Flores said that they have already started preparing for the use of the PCOS machines.

“As in 2010, Filipinos can depend on the PCOS machine for transparent elections next year and in the years to come. Business as usual,” he said. – With Edu Punay       



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