Favored supplier gets 6th election contract
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2013 - 12:00am

Smartmatic sure is a favored election supplier. Despite controversy over its automation capability, the Venezuelan firm has been awarded its sixth multimillion-peso contract for the May 2013 election.

The latest contract is for Smartmatic to run the technical-support call center for Comelec field personnel manning the voting machines on Election Day.

Awarded last week, the contract is for P116 million. The Comelec had budgeted P136 million for the National Support Center (NSC). Smartmatic turned in the lowest bid, with venture partner LRA Pacific Management Consulting Inc.

The January bidding first was declared a failure when lone bidder SPI Global supposedly submitted incomplete documents. Smartmatic had missed the deadline, yet the Comelec later accepted its bid.

Smartmatic had also bagged the NSC contract for the 2010 election, then subcontracted it to LRA Pacific, which hired 690 call center agents. The NSC at the time became one of many cases of automation fraud, along with the discovery of 60 voting machines in the house of a Smartmatic technician in Antipolo City, and of dozens of compact-flash (CF) memory cards containing vote counts in the Cagayan de Oro city dump.

A former LRA Pacific executive came forward after the 2010 balloting to denounce Smartmatic’s many “irregularities” at the NSC. Foremost was a “very powerful server” whose purpose Smartmatic refused to explain, according to Jonathan Manalang, erstwhile operations NSC director. When he pressed the Venezuelans for answers, Manalang said they told him, “Don’t worry about it, we know what we’re doing, we’ve done it many times before.”

Another flaw was Smartmatic’s order, through the call agents, for field technicians to report only how many voting machines they received. They were told not to bother if the serial numbers tallied or not with the official deployment list of the precinct count optical scanners (PCOS). That opened the process to fraud, Manalang said then. Precincts of 200 voters each were clustered with one, two, three, or four others, under one PCOS unit, depending on the locale. If one machine was programmed to accept only 600 ballots from three clustered precincts, but delivered to a cluster of five precincts with 1,000 voters, it would reject ballots after 600, thus disenfranchising the 400 others. Conversely if a PCOS programmed for 1,000 ballots was sent to a cluster of three precincts, it would accept more than the 600 genuine ballots.

Manalang said he was debarred from the NSC, with no explanation, a day after the balloting.

The five other contracts the Comelec has given to Smartmatic are:

• P1.8 billion, to purchase the 82,000 PCOS units initially leased for P7.2 billion in 2010;

• P405.4 million, election results transmission service;

• P154.5 million, transmission modems;

• P46.5 million, for 82,000 main CF cards for as many PCOS units;

• P46.5 million, for 82,000 write once-read many CF cards.

The biddings for the transmission service and CF cards had failed twice, justifying the Comelec’s price negotiations. Smartmatic had not even joined in the biddings for the CF cards, yet ended up with the contracts, both P11.7 million higher than the best bids.

The P9-billion PCOS lease-purchase in 2010 and 2013, and the hundreds-million peso technological and technical addendums, point up the costliness of election automation. But at best, automation has only brought speed in delivering potentially fraudulent results, according to Gus Lagman, computer expert and former election commissioner. All PCOS test runs have failed to meet the required 99.995-percent accuracy rate. Safeguards against fraud have been removed, like the ultraviolet light to detect fake ballots, and the receipt to certify that the PCOS had counter the voter’s ballot right. Worst, middleman Smartmatic has been deprived of the license to sell and use the PCOS and its software.

Speed is meaningless without accuracy. It’s like a bank ATM instantly stating that your account balance is P500, when it’s really P5,000.

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It’s becoming more about Amalilio

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman wants Manila to deliver evidence to link Malaysian opposition head Anwar Ibrahim to the Sabah “invasion” by the Sulu Sultanate. But his government is ignoring four earlier requests from Manila in relation to the fighting between a ragtag band of Sultanate guards and superior Malaysian forces.

Manila’s entreaties are reasonable: humane treatment of 800,000 Filipino workers in Sabah, visitation of Filipinos in refugee camps, checkup of ten captured Sultanate followers, and permission to send food, clothing, and medicines. It is even defending Malaysia’s right to protect its borders again intruders.

Yet Anifah imperiously expects Manila priority for his government’s desire to lock up the domestic opposition before the mandatory general elections. It’s as if the Philippine duty should be to help the Malaysian ruling party.

Meanwhile, Anifah’s government has not turned over to Manila P2-billion swindler Manuel Amalilio. On the contrary, his brother Sabah chief minister Musa Aman, kinsman Attorney General Gani Patail, and boss Prime Minister Najib Razak allegedly conspired to keep Amalilio from Philippine justice for 15,000 victims.

Likely Anifah et al unfairly are using Amalilio as a bargaining chip in the Sabah row. The Philippine Departments of Foreign Affairs and of Justice have had to delay till further notice, without public explanation, all talks for his deportation while the Sabah fighting rages.

In fact, the Sabah issue is becoming more about Amalilio. Last week opposition MP Tian Chua of Sabah was charged with sedition. Purportedly he supported the intrusion when he accused the federal government of sowing fear among Sabahan voters via military actions. Insinuated too was that Tian’s recent Manila visit, to gather info about Amalilio’s crimes and meet with Philippine authorities, had to do with the subsequent Sabah incident.

Reports are that Azmin Ali, the No. 2 opposition head, will be charged with sedition as well this week. Anwar, the foremost dissenter, supposedly will be charged with treason, a non-bailable offense. That would put him out of the running, at a time when he is “threatening to win” the parliamentary election against Najib’s tottering regime.

Anwar recently exposed the blood ties of Amalilio to Anifah, Musa, and Gani. With comrades Tian and Azmin, he accused Najib and the Anifah-Musa-Gani kinsmen of keeping Amalilio’s loot – equivalent to 880 million ringgit – to cheat in the elections. Indeed, Najib and allies have used alibi after alibi to prevent the return of Amalilio and his loot.

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

E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com

AMALILIO COMELEC ELECTION MANALANG MILLION PCOS SABAH SMARTMATIC
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