Comelec, Smartmatic collude in new scams

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

The Comelec announced last New Year’s that it would hold mock elections nationwide to test Smartmatic’s automated balloting. But how can the poll body do that when it does not have the software to run the precinct count optical scanners (PCOS)? Neither does the Venezuelan seller, Smartmatic, have the right to operate the units. Its software license has been revoked by the true owner-developer, Dominion Voting Systems of Canada.

That’s why IT and legal experts doubt all the more the integrity of the PCOS. They are advising the Catholic bishops who are to scrutinize the machines to better look closely during the mock polls. For, the hand can be quicker than the eye.

Political leaders concerned about the country’s international reputation should brace for the backlash. The PCOS deal is worth P9 billion. The Philippine government could be blacklisted as the world’s No. 1 software pirate if it uses without permission Dominion’s patented intellectual property.

The mock polls and/or the 2013 election can turn into a global scandal. It would ruin the country’s standing in the world community, no different from the exposé that the compound where Osama bin Laden had hidden for years and was killed is in a vacation village of Pakistani generals and a stone’s throw from a military camp. It would be akin too to the Wall Street shocker that foremost financial adviser Bernard Madoff had duped clients and friends of $65 billion in Ponzi scams.

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Meantime, the Comelec and Smartmatic are forging a smaller but PCOS-related sweetheart deal. Authorities would do well to dig deep into the scam. It could explain why the Comelec is so eager to purchase from Smartmatic 82,000 unlicensed PCOS units.

The deal concerns the purchase of 82,000 CF (compact flash) memory cards to be installed in the same number of PCOS units. It’s part of a bigger bidding that the Comelec held last August, totaling P403.5 million. Included were the supplies as well of thermal paper, marking pens, toner, and rechargeable batteries. For the CF cards alone, the budget was P46.6 million.

Three companies joined. LDLA Marketing, a newcomer in Comelec biddings, signified intention to submit bids for all items. The two others, including Smartmatic, were uninterested in supplying the CF cards and marking pens.

The Comelec seemed bent on easing out newbies. The bids and awards committee disqualified LDLA for failing to notarize its list of past projects. Yet this was not stated as a requirement in the bid documents.

Having removed the one and only CF card bidder, the Comelec had to call for a new bidding in October. LDLA joined again, complying with all the requirements. Still it was disqualified on the false reason of financial incapability. Three old-timers, including Smartmatic, gave bids too. But Smartmatic and one other still stayed away from the CF card portion. Only the last made a bid for the cards, but its products were unsuitable because unbranded ones from China.

With two intentionally failed biddings, the Comelec found cause for a negotiated purchase. But for semblance of fairness, it invited LDLA to submit to a product test last November 30. After which, it told the new supplier to submit a sealed bid.

LDLA did, with P33.5 million. Another firm made a bid of P45.2 million. Smartmatic joined this time, and bid P50.9 million — way beyond the approved ceiling of P46.6 million.

Smartmatic should have been disqualified outright. But no. The bids committee whispered to it to bring down its “sealed bid” to P45.2 million, to match the second bidder. It then disqualified LDLA and that other bidder on the flimsy contention that their CF cards were harder to eject from the PCOS machines than Smartmatic’s.

And so the contract — P11.7 million higher than LDLA’s — was awarded to Smartmatic.

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READERS’ REACTIONS. On using “portable cell sites” for election black prop and junk texting:

Olaf C.: “The gadget seems to hijack the GSM signaling channel, from which all text messages are transmitted. Its text will pop up like one of those service-provider messages, which cannot be saved, so no proof if someone wants to complain about it. Very smart!”

On Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s multimillion-peso Christmas gifts to his colleagues:

Marlon, of yahoo.com: “(1) Noynoy Aquino was elected President in 2010, yet the Senate still asks for and provides a budget for his vacated senatorial seat — and up to 2013. Why? (2) MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) are supposed to be liquidated at once with invoices. It was already yearend, yet they still had unpaid invoices. And why were not all given equal additional MOOE? (3) The senators denounce the PNP/AFP practice of ‘budget conversions,’ but this savings-to-MOOE is a clear case of conversion — paid without invoices.”

Panfilo Lacson, senator: “It’s illegal depending on how the senator treats and uses the allocated monies. In my case, all the monies, whether distributed in December or any month of the year, went to my finance office and were disbursed in accordance with proper audit procedures. I did not receive any additional P250,000 ‘pamasko’ from Enrile.”

On the Atimonan shootout, exposed as a rubout:

Orlando Domingo: “Who really cares if those two groups kill each other, since they’re both into crime anyway and so long as no innocent bystander gets hit?”

Well, for one, they’re still in the taxpayers’ payroll.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com


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