No PCOS test, no pay - Comelec
MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) won't pay for the election machines it re-purchased until they are fully examined by manufacturer Smartmatic.
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes told reporters on Monday, June 25, they are making sure all the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines it purchased from Smartmatic are in good shape, in time for the 2013 elections. "As per our contract [with Smartmatic], we won't pay a single cent until we have examined, tested, and accepted each and every machine," he said.
Brillantes, along with other poll body commissioners, visited the Smartmatic warehouse in Cabuyao, Laguna, where all the 80,000-plus machines were kept before and after the 2010 elections. "We're going to check each and every machine to make sure that they still work well [for the 2013 elections]," he said.
Comelec exercised in March the option to purchase the old machines for the next elections. The Supreme Court issued in April a TRO against the purchase due to legal questions, but it was lifted in June.
Smartmatic's Cesar Flores said that with the lifting of the TRO and the continuation of the purchase, they immediately began with the hardware testing of all the machines. Some 160 people -- 80 from Comelec and 80 from Smartmatic -- work in pairs to check and repair, if needed, the machines.
Among the PCOS features and parts being checked are:
- power source
- CF card ports
- thermal printer
- scanning capacity
- UV sensor
- modem transmission
Payment to Smartmatic will be made in 3 tranches. The first tranche will be made as soon as Smartmatic finishes testing and delivers 50% of all machines to the Comelec.
Comelec wants to have the machine testing finished immediately -- which is not impossible, said the poll body chair. Brillantes explained that at a rate of 3,500 machines being repaired and checked in a day, the whole inspection could be over in just 2-3 weeks.
"We want to rush this testing so that we can move on to the second phase," he said. The second phase would include the procurement for other election-related services. "If necessary, we'll field additional people, and we'll work overtime if needed."
Flores boasted that examination of the first batch of machines would be done in a week, given that it takes less than 20 minutes to examine one machine. But according to Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez, they expect the first batch of 40,000 PCOS machines to be checked and delivered by end of August or September.
After the inspection of all processes in the warehouse, Brillantes expressed satisfaction with what he observed. The Comelec chair was mostly pleased with how the machines were stored.
"All the machines are well-packed. They are well-maintained since [they were last used in] 2010. The manufacturing of the machines is really good," he said.
Brillantes added they will come up with an assessment report before accepting the final batch of machines, and before they make any payment to Smartmatic.
Even election watchdog leaders who joined the inspection as part of the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) were satisfied with what they saw.
Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) Henrietta de Villa noted how, compared to the 2010 elections, Comelec and Smartmatic seem to be more prepared this time. "I interrogated some personnel [who are checking the machines], and they seem to know well what they are doing."
She also commended both Smartmatic and Comelec for deploying their respective personnel to assist in the checking of the machines.
Newly-installed election watchdogs National Citizen's Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chair Corazon dela Paz-Bernardo, on the other hand, commented that Comelec and Smartmatic "seem to be moving in the right direction."
She, however, suggested that the CAC do an independent test of the machines after the checking conducted by Smartmatic "just to make sure that they agree with what's being claimed." She also suggested that security in the premises of the warehouse be reinforced.
Flores said they have maintained tight security measures in the area, among them, installing CCTV cameras and following strict procedures for visiting parties. - Rappler.com
Click on the links below for related stories:
- Election watchdog wants SC to reverse ruling on PCOS
- Fixing the PCOS problem
- SC: Comelec's purchase of PCOS machines valid
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