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‘Comelec forced to deal with Smartmatic for PCOS machines supply’

Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Election automation service provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. is likely to bag another huge contract from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said yesterday.

Albano said Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista told him in a meeting on Monday that the poll body “is now forced to deal only with Smartmatic-TIM on the supply of more precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.”

“He informed me that other bidders have backed out because they considered the Comelec-set prices to be not viable, and that the commission is now left with only one bidder, Smartmatic,” Albano said.

Bautista met with Albano after the Isabela congressman voiced concern on why the Comelec was dealing only with Smartmatic-TIM in procuring automated voting-counting machines for the May 9, 2016 elections.

Certainly, the best cost for taxpayers would not be obtained if there were only one bidder, Albano said.

The Comelec has already awarded a P1.7-billion contract to Smartmatic-TIM for the lease of 23,000 PCOS units. The poll body will need up to 100,000 automated voting-counting machines in 2016.

After meeting with the Comelec chief, Albano said he understood the poll body’s predicament.

“I was told that the law allows them to deal with the remaining bidder,” he said.

Albano said Bautista informed him that the Comelec is now studying whether to proceed with the awarding of a P3-billion deal for the refurbishment of its 81,000 PCOS machines or a P6.3-billion contract for the lease of 71,000 PCOS units.

“Whether it is refurbishment of old machines or lease of new ones, I got the impression that it would be Smartmatic that will bag the contract,” he added.

He pointed out that repairing and upgrading the old PCOS is clearly less expensive on the part of the Comelec and taxpayers, while leasing new one is obviously the easier and faster option.

“But will the old units function properly on voting day? Will there be enough time for the Comelec and Smartmatic to repair and upgrade them?” he asked.

The poll body used the 81,000 PCOS units in the 2010 and 2013 elections. The Comelec initially leased them from Smartmatic-TIM but eventually exercised its option to purchase the machines.

Then Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and Smartmatic officials told congressmen that the PCOS would be good for three elections up to 2016.

The poll body will have the same option to purchase if it chooses to lease 71,000 PCOS units from Smartmatic for P6.3 billion.

In a recent hearing at the House of Representatives, Bautista told lawmakers that the Comelec was already behind schedule in its preparations for the 2016 elections.

“We hope we do not encounter further delay,” he said.

Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite said there is still a pending petition filed by election watchdogs with the Supreme Court questioning the PCOS contract of Smartmatic with the Comelec.

“But the SC has not issued a restraining order. Maybe, they did not want to contribute to any additional delay in election preparations,” he said. – With Evelyn Macairan

ACIRC ALBANO BAUTISTA COMELEC COMELEC AND SMARTMATIC COMELEC CHAIRMAN ANDRES BAUTISTA ELPIDIO BARZAGA JR. OF DASMARI HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ISABELA REP PCOS SMARTMATIC
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