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Smartmatic, Indra hurdle 1st stage of bidding for voting machines

Michael Bueza
Smartmatic, Indra hurdle 1st stage of bidding for voting machines
The voting on Smartmatic-TIM's eligibility by the Comelec bids and awards committee is not without controversy

MANILA, Philippines – The two bidders for the contract to lease more precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 national elections hurdled the first test of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Both the Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM)-led joint venture and Indra Sistemas SA passed the first of the two-stage competitive bidding for the lease of 23,000 PCOS machines – which use optical mark reader (OMR) technology – on Monday, December 15.

Indra got the unanimous vote of the 14-member technical working group (TWG) of the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), which likewise voted unanimously to officially declare the firm’s eligibility to go through the second stage.

However, the TWG found problems in Smartmatic-TIM’s documents.

It voted 9-5 to disqualify Smartmatic-TIM, after finding out that one of its joint venture members, Jarltech International, did not have a tax clearance in the original copy of documents submitted.

Meanwhile, it was split 7-7 on Smartmatic-TIM’s problematic registration documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

In the end, the 5-member Comelec BAC deliberated on the TWG’s recommendations, and voted 3-2 to declare the Smartmatic joint venture eligible to bid as well.

Bids committee chairperson Helen Aguila-Flores, vice chairperson Jubil Surmeida, and member Divina Blas-Perez voted for Smartmatic-TIM’s eligibility, while members Charlie Yap and Maria Juana Valeza dissented.

Indra files appeal

Indra’s lead counsel, Archivald de Mata, filed a motion before the Comelec BAC to reconsider its vote. He said that Indra is “strongly appealing” the bid committee’s decision favoring Smartmatic.

Despite the TWG’s findings, De Mata asked, “How can the BAC see it as TWG passing the eligibility requirement of Smartmatic?”

“We will definitely exhaust all legal means to have Smartmatic disqualified for violating the laws government procurement and corporations,” said De Mata.

He added that his legal team will be studying the possibility of filing cases “against certain groups and individuals if the rule of law will be continuously ignored.”

On December 5 and 10, Indra and the Smartmatic joint venture respectively presented their eligibility requirements and initial technical documents for the first stage of the bidding.

The Smartmatic joint venture is composed of Smartmatic-TIM Corp, Jarltech International Inc, TIM Corp, and Smartmatic International Holdings BV.

Both bidders had manifested their objections against each other’s participation in the bidding. Among others, Indra contested Smartmatic’s articles of incorporation, while Smartmatic questioned the legal basis behind Indra’s branch office in the country.

For the second stage, the two bidders would have to meet the final technical requirements that would be set by the Comelec.

The Comelec seeks to lease more PCOS machines to augment the existing 82,000 units in Comelec’s inventory. The approved budget for the contract is P2.5 billion. –

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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.