MANILA, Philippines – An election watchdog and 7 cause-oriented groups asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday, January 28, to blacklist Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corporation, stopping it from participating in procurement for the 2016 national elections.
They also sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the award of any contract to Smartmatic in relation to the 2016 polls, as well as against the ongoing public bidding for more voting machines.
Led by the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E), the petitioners through lawyer Neil Jerome Rapatan filed a 48-page petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus before the SC, with the Commission on Elections (Comelec), its bids and awards committee (BAC), and Smartmatic-TIM as respondents.
The groups claimed that Smartmatic made several “misrepresentations” in qualification statements submitted to the poll body, and breached its obligations under the 2010 automated election system project contract.
They belied Smartmatic’s claim that Jarltech International Corporation – the supposed manufacturer of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines – was its subsidiary. They also assailed the company’s failure to disclose to the Comelec that Jarltech transferred the production of the PCOS machines from one company to another.
The petitioners also said the company violated the 20% maximum allowable limit for subcontracting arrangements under the procurement law.
Because of this, the petitioners insist that Smartmatic should be banned from joining procurement processes for the 2016 polls, or in any government procurement, for at least two years. (READ: Poll watchdog to Comelec: Blacklist Smartmatic)
Clarifying that they are not against automated elections, the groups said they are merely advocating “for the rule of law to prevail in the award of Comelec contracts related to the conduct of the 2016 elections.”
They then asked the SC to prevent the Comelec from proceeding with two public biddings for additional voting machines in 2016. Smartmatic-TIM hurdled the first stage of the bidding processes for 23,000 more PCOS machines and 410 direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machines.
The Comelec in December also approved Smartmatic’s P300-million proposal for the diagnostics of 82,000 PCOS machines that will be reused in the 2016 polls. The poll body directly negotiated with Smartmatic instead of holding a public bidding.
However, the contract has yet to be awarded, said the Comelec, as negotiations are still underway to lower the price.
Comelec, bids body committed ‘grave abuse’
In addition, the petitioners asked the SC to set aside a Comelec ruling in November 2014 which junked their petition to blacklist Smartmatic, and another resolution denying their motion for reconsideration.
They said the Comelec and its bids and awards committee (BAC) committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied due course to their petition because they have no legal personality to initiate the blacklisting plea.
The groups argued they have a legitimate interest in the propriety of the Comelec bidding of contracts. “Petitioners are taxpayers, they are also voters, and members of party-list organizations and cause-oriented groups,” they said.
“Needless to stress, petitioners are stakeholders of the previous and upcoming elections. They have all the reasons to cry for justice, fairness and equity,” added the groups.
They also questioned the BAC’s declaration that their petition was prematurely filed. They said it was filed in time “to assail the qualifications of a potential contractor that will carry out election duties for the 2016 elections.”
It is the mandate of the Comelec and its BAC, they said, to look into their complaint versus Smartmatic, as it involves issues of “transcendental importance.”
For the bids committee to realize its goal in ensuring clean and credible 2016 elections, the petitioners argued it should rule “there is a reasonable cause to blacklist private respondents.”
Joining the C3E as petitioners are the National Labor Union (NLU), League of Elder and Aging Persons (LEAP), Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU), Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippines, Alliance of Government and Private Retired Employees (AGPREE), ACCO Homes Neighborhood Association, and Kaakbay (Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan All Filipino Democratic Movement) party list. – Rappler.com
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