Did Smartmatic coerce Comelec to accept new lease deal?

Bulatlat File Photo: In a May 2013 picket in front of Comelec office in Manila, protesters depict the PCOS machine as instrument where votes are "magicked," hence, hocus-Pcos
Bulatlat File Photo: In a May 2013 picket in front of Comelec office in Manila, protesters depict the PCOS machine as instrument where votes are “magicked,” hence, hocus-Pcos

“The old PCOS machines, numbering 81,896, will now be useless scraps of metal. By approving the new lease deal, COMELEC just wasted P10 billion ($217 million) worth of taxpayers’ money, excluding costs for storage and maintenance.” – Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said.

By MARYA SALAMAT
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The integrity of the 2016 national elections may be compromised with Smartmatic’s apparent monopoly over the Philippine electoral system, combined with the Aquino administration’s tact in preparing for the election. “The Aquino administration is treating the upcoming elections like a rushed birthday party, complete with rented out videoke – or in this instance – OMR machines.” This is the gist of Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon’s statement in a press conference this Saturday August 15.

The youth lawmaker took issue with the revelations from Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon that one of the primary reasons Comelec resorted to the lease deal was Smartmatic’s refusal to join the bidding for the refurbishment of old PCOS machines.

“It is now revealed to the public that Smartmatic-TIM practically coerced Comelec to enter the new lease contract,” Ridon Said.

“Despite this fact, COMELEC still decided to proceed with the new lease agreement, apparently under duress,” the lawmaker said, referring to Commissioners Rowena Guanzon and Sheriff Abas’ statements showing that Comelec was practically ���pushed to the edge” by Smartmatic to select the lease deal.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista had previously announced they were considering only two options concerning the technology to be used this coming 2016 elections. Both involved Smartmatic. One option was to give Smartmatic the contract to refurbish the 81,896 PCOS machines it had sold the government, and replace the unusable PCOS with new OMR machines by Smartmatic; the second option was leasing all-new OMRs from Smartmatic.

“The old PCOS machines, numbering 81,896, will now be useless scraps of metal. By approving the new lease deal, COMELEC just wasted P10 billion ($217 million) worth of taxpayers’ money, excluding costs for storage and maintenance,” Ridon said.

But this is not the only question mark hanging over the Comelec’s planned lease of Smartmatic’s machines. Its capability is still untested as of today according to election watchdogs.

There is as yet no reported testing of the new PCOS machines (which they call Optical Mark Reader) from Smartmatic. Nelson Celis, spokesperson of election watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch and former president of Philippine Computer Society, has previously told Bulatlat.com that even Smartmatic’s old PCOS had not been tested when these were contracted by the Comelec.

As if these were not enough, AES Watch said in a statement, the Comelec’s decision to award the lease of 93,977 expensive new PCOS units to a sham joint venture, done “without awaiting the action on the legal questions raised against Comelec and Smartmatic, is in violation of the Constitution and the laws as well as of COA (Commission on Audit) regulations.”

He added that “there can never be a repair of the old, defective non transparent PCOS.”

Ridon called for citizen vigilance amid COMELEC’s latest decision. From what’s happening, he feared the Comelec cannot fulfil its constitutional duty to preserve the sanctity of the ballot.” ()

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