first published on Blogwatch.ph
Poll automation will push through in next year’s midterm elections. But here’s the caveat: the 2013 polls may be hounded by the same glitches and irregularities we experienced during the 2010 elections, thanks to the poll body’s decision to purchase and reuse the 82,000 Precint Count Optical Scan(PCOS) machines at a P1.8-billion price tag.
The PCOS purchase, which was signed on March 30 by the Comelec,was declared valid last Wednesday by the Supreme Court, now headed by acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio. It should be noted that the purchase was done way beyond December 31, 2010, which is the expiration of the original contract between Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM that contains the option-to-purchase provision. But the high court argued that the contract was still valid and existing since the performance security bond posted by Smartmatic-TIM was not yet returned.
Interestingly, the SC decision was made two days after President Benigno Aquino III candidly expressed supportfor the use of the highly flawed PCOS machines for the 2013 midterm elections. Why wouldn’t he, when doing otherwise would also resurrect questions on the PCOS machines’ credibility and thus stir doubt on his victory in the presidential race? Indeed, the SC decision saved Aquino’s presidential victory in 2010 from potential scrutiny as the PCOS deal is cleared from legal infirmities at the very least.
The same goes for Vice PresidentJejomar Binay, who expectedlypitched in his support for the Comelec’s purchase of the counting machines. So, with the two highest elected officials and the high court stamping the seal of approval on the PCOS machines, Smartmatic-TIM seems to be almost unimpeachable in its exclusive role over the country’s poll automation.
The foreign-led consortium (90-10 in favor of Smartmatic, which actually violates 60-40 constitutional provision on joint ventures) must be really smart for formulating a brilliant contract that allowed them to cover two elections in one shot. They earned P7.2 billion for the lease of counting machines and other election-related services rendered during the 2010 automated elections. Now, they will earn P1.8 billion more for selling the machines without even going through public bidding. And the Comelec is still very happy with that. I wonder if the commissioners are really keen on the supposed security features of the PCOS machines. Or perhaps they don’t know other automated voting solutions exist aside from PCOS. That is the problem of a Comelec whose composition did not adjust to the need of the times for poll automation.