MANILA, Philippines – Smartmatic – the Venezuela-based firm whose P1.8-billion contract to provide automated machines for the 2013 elections is now under question – can participate in biddings for other election-related services, an election officer confirmed at the sidelines of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, May 8. This alarmed an SC justice, however, who said there’s a possibility “everything will go to Smartmatic.”
Justice Arturo Brion said it is likely that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) — which awarded an P11.3-billion contract to Smartmatic for the 2010 elections and purchased 82,000 precinct count optical scan machines (PCOS) from the company last March — will also tap it to manage the PCOS machines for the 2013 midterm elections.
“Perhaps we (Comelec) can give these services again to them (Smartmatic) because they are in the best position to service these machines, would that not be the result?” Brion said.
Solicitor general Francis Jardeleza said Comelec “cannot do it and will not do it.”
Under their contract with the poll body, Smartmatic will only provide the hardware and software for the 2013 elections. Jardeleza initially said that Smartmatic is disqualified from bidding for the transmission, security and ballot printing. When Rappler asked him if this disqualification is official, he said yes. “It’s in the deed of sale [of the PCOS machines].”
But Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes told reporters otherwise on the sidelines of the oral arguments. He said Smartmatic is not disqualified.
Smartmatic executive Cesar Flores also said Jardeleza was wrong. “We’re not disqualified to participate in any bidding in the Republic of the Philippines,” he said.
Jardeleza later made a turnaround. Even if Smartmatic is qualified to bid, he assured the high court that the company will not have a monopoly of all services for the 2013 elections.
Brion was not convinced. “All things being equal, everything will go to Smartmatic?” he said. Jardeleza answered that if it does, it is only because Smartmatic gave the minimum financial costs and the best bid. – Rappler.com