Group to ask SC to nullify Smartmatic contract

A civil society group said the Comelec-Smartmatic contract defies an earlier recommendation against it by the Comelec Advisory Council

Smartmatic-TIM again in 2013? The Brillantes-led Comelec has secured the services of the Barbados-based firm yet again.

 

MANILA, Philippines – A multisectoral group will ask the Supreme Court to nullify the P1.8-B contract signed by the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic International Corp. last March 30, which seals the deal on the re-use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 midterm polls.

The Automated Elections Systems Watch (AES), composed of 40 civil society organizations, was supposed to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the High Court on Monday, April 2, but decided to change its mind after it learned that the Comelec, Smartmatic and local company Total Information Management Corp had already signed the contract.

Under the contract, Smartmatic-TIM will provide 82,000 PCOS machines and the canvassing and consolidation system for the 2013 polls, with a one-year warranty. Comelec said Smartmatic-TIM has promised to correct the “glitches” in its machines that were exposed in the last presidential elections in 2010.

Instead of seeking a TRO, AES would be asking the Court to nullify the contract, according to Dr Pablo Manalastas of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a member of the AES.

Manalastas cited the following grounds for nullifying the contract:

a. the poll body acted against the recommendations of the Comelec Advisory Council chairman Ray Anthony Roxas Chua not to buy or lease the Smartmatic machines;

b. the machines’ deficiencies have yet to be corrected

Manalastas said one of the major errors committed by Smartmatic in the 2010 elections is the incomplete data found in various transmitted election returns. “They have to fix the program so they don’t transmit erroneous data,” he said.

Manalastas said the signing of the contract caught them by surprise. “It was a covert act,” he said, adding they believed the contract was signed without the knowledge of Augusto Lagman, one of the 7 Comelec commissioners.

Lagman is a former member of AES.

Uncorrected errors

Lagman said though that he did not take part in the decision-making because he has yet to be re-appointed. Lagman’s re-appointment in April 2011 has yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments, which bypassed him the last time. Congress is on recess.

Lagman also explained that the signing of the contract was a “foregone conclusion,” because the Comelec signed a resolution in March giving the go-signal to exercise its option to purchase the PCOS machines. Lagman dissented in the said resolution.

But he conceded that the Smartmatic errors have yet to be fixed. When Rappler asked him if Smartmatic has already corrected the 2010 election glitches, he said in a text message: “As far as I know, not yet. They are still demonstrating the fixes.”

We posed the same question to Comelec Commissioners Rene Sarmiento and Armando Velasco, but they have not replied to our calls and text messages.

Manalastas said they will try to get a copy of the contract and file the petition before the SC goes on a break on April 5. – Rappler.com