The Commission on Elections (Comelec) may find itself embroiled again in a prolonged legal challenge should Smartmatic-TIM win the bidding for additional counting machines for the 2016 elections.
“This is one possibility that we want to prevent from happening. We want to help Comelec and the country avoid any and all doubts about our electoral process,” Archibald de Mata, legal counsel of Indra Sistemas S.A., said on Thursday.
De Mata was referring to the unsettled question on the ownership of the technology being used by Smartmatic in the Precint Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that it is offering the Comelec to augment the 82,000 machines bought by the poll body in 2012.
At the end-to-end demonstration of the machines conducted by the Comelec, its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) was asked to secure a categorical reply from Smartmatic on the ownership of the technology in conformity with its own bidding rules.
The BAC, however, refused to compel Smartmatic to claim ownership, to the disappointment of Indra’s counsel.
“We are imploring the Comelec to not let this issue pass as the bidding goes along. Should Smartmatic win the bid and then be found not owning the PCOS technology, then they may be in violation of the very same rules they had set out,” e Mata said.
The infraction may spawn questions on the validity of the bidding process and delay preparations for 2016.
A number of IT experts and concerned groups have raised the issue of ownership against Smartmatic.
In 2009, the company submitted a copy of the ISO-9001 certification of Jarltech Inc. of Taiwan as part of their eligibility requirements, claiming it was the majority owner, effectively concealing the fact that they were sub-contracting the manufacture of the PCOS machines.
Smartmatic also on Thursday reiterated its assurance that it is capable of refurbishing the machines in preparation for the May 2016 elections.
“We are committed to providing our services to the Filipino nation and the Comelec and rest assured that we, as manufacturers of the PCOS machines, are second to none in terms of technical know-how and capability,” Cesar Flores, Smartmatic Philippines president, said.
The London-based diversified technology provider readily expressed its intention to participate in the Comelec-sponsored bidding for the contract for providing the required maintenance, upgrade and refurbishing of the machines.
Flores has expressed full support to Comelec’s pledge to be completely transparent in its preparations for the 2016 polls.
He said certain influential rivals are behind a well-financed “black propaganda” against Smartmatic despite the PCOS machines’ outstanding performance in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Flores called on the Comelec to look into the legitimacy of “advocates of clean and honest elections” who were “used” by the losing bidder as “media talking heads” obviously positioning to corner the P2 billion contract to supply additional voting machines for the 2016 elections.
“Smartmatic acknowledged everyone’s right to participate in the bidding even as it warned the Comelec against entities or groups with questionable backgrounds or performance records,” he said.
Flores said some groups are believed to be fronts for rival firms or groups that are seeking to corner the P2- billion Comelec contract while posing as crusaders for clean and honest polls.
According to him, the groups include critics who have waged a well-funded media “demolition job” against Smartmatic, particularly those who previously lost in Comelec bidding.