Comelec lawyers recommend public bidding for PCOS repairs

Michael Bueza
The Comelec Law Department adds that Smartmatic's extended warranty offer for the refurbishment of PCOS machines should undergo tests of validity under the procurement law

PCOS MACHINE. The existing 80,000 PCOS machines would have to be refurbished for the 2016 polls. File photo by John Javellana

MANILA, Philippines – The law department of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has recommended a public bidding for the refurbishment of the precinct count optical scan machines (PCOS) machines to be reused in the 2016 national and local elections.

The Comelec is choosing between a competitive public bidding or the adoption of Smartmatic-TIM’s extended warranty offer for the repair and maintenance of around 80,000 PCOS units that were used in the 2010 and 2013 polls.

In its legal opinion dated November 4, a copy of which was obtained by Rappler, the Comelec Law Department pushed for a public bidding, saying that the refurbishment of PCOS machines “still falls within the purview and ambit of Republic Act No. 9184 [Government Procurement Reform Act] as amended, and thus, must comply with the provisions of said law.”

The poll body set a P1.2-billion budget for the refurbishment of the PCOS machines.

RA 9184 “covers all procurements to be made by the government, including this Extension of Warranty, which is otherwise a procurement for the refurbishment/preventive maintenance/extended warranty/program updates of the PCOS machines,” the law department said.

It added that Smartmatic’s extended warranty offer, which falls under “direct contracting” or “single source procurement,” should undergo tests of validity under RA 9184.

The law department also reiterated its recommendations in June, that the alternative method of procurement through direct contracting cannot be resorted to, should it be determined, among others, that Smartmatic “is not the only entity capable of conducting” the PCOS refurbishment.

If the poll body’s IT department would be determined to conduct the PCOS repairs themselves, the need for outsourcing services could be dispensed as well, it continued.

The Comelec purchased the PCOS machines from Smartmatic in 2012 for P1.8 billion, after leasing it from them for the 2010 polls.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal supported calls to bid out the PCOS repairs.

“The refurbishment of the PCOS machines, that has to be bidded out. You can’t just award it directly to any bidder or any company, because you have to be transparent, because the 2016 elections are very important,” Larrazabal said.

The participation of Smartmatic in Comelec’s preparations for the 2016 polls has been opposed by at least one poll watchdog.

The Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) filed a petition before the Comelec on Monday to blacklist Smartmatic from future election-related projects.

They claimed that Smartmatic was “merely a reseller” of PCOS machines and not the owner, and it subcontracted Taiwan-based Jarltech International Corporation to produce the machines.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said that while the public bidding reflects transparency and allows other companies to submit bids for PCOS repairs, it might cause delays in Comelec’s preparations for the 2016 polls. 

Kapag nag-bidding kami, masisira ang timetable namin. Matagal ang bidding eh, about 3 or 4 months iyan (If we conduct the bidding, our timetable would be affected. Public bidding takes about 3 or 4 months to finish),” Tagle told Rappler.  –

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.