Friday, June 15, 2012


June 15, 2012
On Wednesday, June 13, 2012, the Supreme Court handed down a decision most welcome by the proponents of 2013 midterm automated elections. The High Court dismissed the consolidated four petitions questioning the decision and validity of the Commission on Elections “option to purchase” the 1.8 billion 82,000 precinct optical scan (PCOS) machines used in 2010 elections from Smartmatic-TIM.
        Voting 11-3, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of poll body’s contract with Smartmatic. “The Court found that the main contract for the automated election system between Comelec and Smartmatic containing the option to purchase the PCOS machine was still existing when Smartmatic extended the period of the said option,” said the new Supreme Court spokesperson, Ma. Victoria Guerra, in a news briefing after the special full-court session.
            The court deemed the contract is valid since the “performance security bond had not yet been returned to Smartmatic,” when the Comelec decided to exercise its option to purchase the voting machines.. “It was expressly stated in the original contract that the return of the performance bond will terminate the contract,” Guerra added.
            Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta wrote the decision for the full court. Concurring with him are Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Marianito del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Maria Lourdes Sereno and Biendvinido Reyes. Justices Martin Villarama, Arturo Brion and President Aquino’s appointee to the Supreme Court Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, disagreed with the majority opinion.
            With the Supreme Court decision the Comelec may now go on in implementing the contract for the purchase of PCOS machines and take full blast in its stalled preparation for the May 13, 2013 poll automation. Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the SC ruling is most welcome and has removed the stumbling blocks in Comelec implementation and preparation for automated elections.
            Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. also welcomed the decision. Saying, “it is a very good decision.” With the lifting of TRO, the Chairman said the Comelec would quickly resume its preparations, beginning with the publication of bidding notices for services, such as the printing of ballots, purchase of ballot boxes, delivery and storage of equipment and election paraphernalia, and technical personnel deployment, among other things. 
           In a press release the Commission on Elections hailed the decision of the Supreme Court upholding the poll body's procurement of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) Machines for the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections.
              "We are elated with the decision of the Supreme Court," Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. told reporters, "we will be happier if the petitioners can join us in moving forward for a successful May 2013 elections," he added, noting that it is "time to go together," since Supreme Court has decided the issue.
              Likewise, as expected, Malacañang welcome the timeliness of the Surpeme Court decision, as it now ensures the legality of the automation of the May 13, 2013 elections said one of President Aquino’s spokespersons.

June 11, 2012

Last June 05, 2012 hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms chaired by Cavite Representative Elpidio Braganza, Jr., Comelec Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. assures that the May 13, 2013 National & Local Elections will be automated regardless of the decision of the Supreme Court in the petitions contesting the constitutionality  of the Comelec P1.8 billion “option to purchase”  of precinct scan optical (PCOS) machines with Netherlands based Smartmatic-Total  Information Management (TIM). 

“That is correct” is the Chairman response when asked if the May 13, 2013 elections would be automated regardless of the Supreme Court ruling on petitions to stop the Comelec to purchase the PCOS machine from Smartmatic-TIM.

Lawmakers, led by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., have rallied behind the Comelec’s move to “exercise the option to purchase” the PCOS machines that the poll body rented from Smartmatic-TIM in 2010. 

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile openly supports the decision of the Commission on Elections to purchase the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2010 elections for the 2013 polls. Senator Enrile believes it would be more practical to use the system again than explore a new one.

It was also reported that as far as President Aquino is concerned, there should be no more debates over the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines in the May 2013 senatorial elections, considering their proven credibility particularly in the 2010 presidential elections which he overwhelmingly won.

Nevertheless, Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes, Jr. warned that if the High Court fails to immediately rule on petitions against the Smartmatic deal, the Comelec may revert to manual polls.
He said they are counting on the SC to decide from June 13 to 15 on petitions lodged against the P1.8-billion Comelec “option to purchase” deal for some 80,000 PCOS machines with Smartmatic-TIM.
The Comelec Chairman complains about the Supreme Court’s alleged foot-dragging on the matter. “We will be pressed for time. This is the reason why we’re asking the SC to resolve it immediately. But if it takes time for the SC to resolve the issue until July to August (2012), then we will have no more time anymore for automated polls,” he said.

However, Chairman Brillantes said "we have to move immediately" after the SC hands down its decision. He said Comelec has already prepared the term of reference (TOR) for a new bidding. He said that Comelec has enough funds to hold a new bidding for automated poll systems. "There will be public bidding. We have P7 billion and we have reserves from our savings," he added.
On the other hand, Supreme Court Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said that the Commission on Elections  P1.8 billion purchase of Smartmatic-TIM's precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines is among the priority cases the Supreme Court (SC) will have to resolve soon. Justice Carpio said petitions questioning the constitutionality of the controversial purchase will be in the June 13 en banc session agenda.

"We have do decide on that case soon because the Comelec will have to prepare [for the 2013 polls] one way or the other," Carpio said.

March 18, 2012

The Commission on Elections has decided to avail of the “option to purchase” provided for in the June 2009 contract with Smartmatic which had expired in December 2010 but was extended twice last year. More than 80,000 PCOS machines of Smartmatic International Corp used in the 2010 elections, to be used again in the coming May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said that the Comelec would buy some 80,000 PCOS machines for P1.8 billion worth. The purchase will cover only the hardware and software for the PCOS while other services will have to be bidded out.

Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said, the decision came after several weeks of deliberation during which the Commission en banc engaged in exhaustive discussions of the merits and demerits of the offered option to purchase. The widely publicized views of various groups were considered in the decision making process as well. In the end, the Commission decided that with the 7 billion election budget being inadequate, and there being no legal impediments, the purchase of the PCOS machines could go ahead, provided that the COMELEC be assured that the necessary safeguards are put in place to address the concerns of the deal’s critics.

The Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch), a group of religious, civic and poll watchdog organizations, co-convenor Nelson J. Celis, who had helped in the drafting of the Automated Elections law or Republic Act No. 9369  and who is also the president of the Philippine Computer Society Foundation, said that the COMELEC plan to purchase the poll machine “is illegal, exclusivist, and risky.” “Until now, Smartmatic has been unable to show whether corrections have been made to its system, as it promised last January 2011,” he said. Considering that there were so many glitches reported about the PCOS machines during the 2010 elections buying a defective product “is definitely against the Procurement Law and violates the high standards and best practices of IT industry and business computerization.” In a statement of AES Watch “It will leave one foreign company, Smartmatic, monopolizing the technology system in all elections and even running the whole political exercise forever.”

Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms Chairman Aquilino Pimentel III said that, “As a victim of dagdag-bawas (vote padding and vote shaving) in the 2007 senatorial elections, I want to ensure the sanctity of the ballot and the integrity of our electoral process. So let us think long and hard as to what system we should adopt,” Pimentel said. The senator denounced the decision of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to purchase and use the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines of Smartmatic International Corp. for the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections.

According to Senator Pimentel, the fast-moving counting of votes as a result of the Automated Election System used in the May 10, 2010 National & Local Elections was tainted by the shortcomings of the PCOS hardware and software as stated by some information technology experts. “It makes no sense to adopt the same poll automation technology in succeeding elections, particularly in 2013 and 2016, if the glaring defects of the PCOS system are not rectified this early,” Pimentel said.

However, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes said that, “We decided to buy the hardware and the software of PCOS machines. But this is still subject to conditions. There are some corrections, modifications and enhancements that Smartmatic was required to do before the Comelec buys the machines”. Further the Chairman stressed that Smartmatic is in the process of correcting the deficiencies experienced by the PCOS machines in the 2010 polls.

Meanwhile, civil society and poll reform groups intends to file a petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) with the Supreme Court to stop the Comelec from re-using the 2010 PCOS machines next year said the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente). According to Lente spokesperson Sara Jane Suguitan, the petition will be filed by the umbrella group Movement for Good Governance, headed by economist Solita Monsod, and Lente lawyers as its legal counsels.

“They will file for a temporary restraining order to prevent the Comelec from exercising the (option to) purchase. Our earlier position is that the "option to purchase" is already expired. We assume Comelec was able to find other exceptions to exercise this option. So far, I have not seen the basis of the complaints. We still don’t have a copy of the Comelec resolution,” she said. Suguitan also said that Congress had practically tied Comelec to Smartmatic by setting aside only P7 billion for the election next year.

This blog is based on news online/blog reports


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