Smartmatic already fixing glitches, says Comelec

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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With the negative feedback it is getting, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gives assurances there will be no glitches in 2013

MANILA, Philippines – With all the negative feedback it is getting, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gave assurances that the glitches in the 2010 election machines will all be fixed.

In a Senate hearing on Thursday, March 22, the poll body defended its decision to purchase the old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, claiming that manufacturer Smartmatic is already working on the technical problems.

“All deficiencies can be corrected. Some are already corrected. We’re sitting down with Smartmatic on these,” said Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes.

Smartmatic and Comelec were criticized when machine glitches occurred before and during the May 10, 2010 automated presidential elections. Despite these, the poll body still decided to purchase the old machines and use them for the 2013 national elections.

Brillantes said that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Smartmatic has not been signed yet, and they can cancel the purchase if they find out that the glitches are not fixed. “If we are not satisfied, then we won’t pay for the machines,” Brillantes explained. 

Smartmatic is obliged to repair the PCOS repair, anyway, since it is included in the Option to Purchase (OTP) part of the contract signed by both parties, he added.

Only the machines

Brillantes clarified that not all election-related services will be provided by Smartmatic, which will take care only of the PCOS and consolidation/canvassing system (CCS) equipment and software.

“All other services, whether machine-related or not, will be bided out,” he said. These services include the production of ballot boxes, the deployment of machine paraphernalia to different location, and others.

This setup is different from the 2010 elections, Brillantes claimed, wherein almost 90% of election-related services were provided by the company.

In a separate interview with Smartmatic’s Cesar Flores, he said that his company is still allowed to participate in the bidding for other election-related services. “We think we did a good job in the 2010 elections, so we will still bid,” he told Rappler.

Purchase questioned

The Senate hearing was also attended by former politicians and representatives of election watchdogs.

Former Biliran Gov Glenn Chong said Smartmatic’s errors in the 2010 elections should not be dismissed. “It’s not just a glitch. It’s high crime,” he said.

Maricor Akol of AES Watch pointed out that Smartmatic broke the law when it let the glitches happen in the 2010 polls. “Why are we rewarding someone who violated the law,” she said.

Movement for Good Governance’s Solita Monsod pointed out that there were already recommendations by the poll body’s technical people, including Commissioner Augusto Lagman himself, against the purchase. “So, why are these recommendations not followed?,” she asked.

“If we look at 2010 elections, we can learn a lesson from it. And that lesson is, don’t use Smartmatic,” Monsod added.

Brillantes, in defense, said that Smartmatic is making up for all these. “Smartmatic promised fixing these glitches. They even spoke of enhancements to the system,” he said. – Rappler.com

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