• Congress panel not keen on Comelec ‘pabaon’ issue

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    THE Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Elections System (JCOC-AES) has no plans to include in its inquiry the allegations that money changed hands to ensure the P1.2-billion contract to refurbish the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines will go to Smarmatic.

    JCOC-AES chairman and Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, in an interview, said the committee at present has no intention to include the bribery issue in its proceedings because of absence of solid evidence.

    Pimentel explained that while the issue surfaced during a committee hearing last year after the Filipino word “pabaon” was mentioned, it still is not enough for the panel to look into it since it will be unfair to the officials of the poll body.

    Pabaon means parting gift.

    Members of the Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) last week called on the JCOC-AES and the Senate blue ribbon committee to look into the accusations that top Comelec officials received millions of pesos in exchange for the billion-peso PCOS refurbishment contract.

    The poll watchdog particularly cited the December 4 hearing of the JCOC-AES where the word “pabaon” was mentioned several times while the committee was discussing contracts that the Comelec may award to Smartmatic.

    “It would be unfair to the Comelec officials because there is no proof at all to that,” Pimentel said.

    He earlier asked the Comelec not to push through with the granting of the P300-million PCOS diagnostics deal with Smartmati, saying the move has no legal basis.

    According to him, the decision of the poll body to resort to direct contracting and allow Smartmatic carry the diagnosis of more than 80,000 PCSO machines without a public bidding goes against the procurement law.

    Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed Senate Resolution 1102, asking the proper Senate committee to look into the PCOS diagnosis and repair deal.

    Meanwhile, the camp of Smartmatic-Philippines has asked the Senate to also investigate the background of a Spain-based information technology (IT) company trying to get the P2-billion contract for the upgrading of the automated election system in preparation for the 2016 elections.

    Private lawyer Ruby Jose Yusi, Smartmatic lead counsel, asked Pimentel, who also heads that Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation,to investigate Indra Sistemas over admission of its vice president, Carlos Suarez, that the company is owned by the Spanish government.

    Suarez made the admission during a recent hearing of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms and informed lawmakers that Indra, through Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (SEPI), is the single largest shareholder of the company.

    The Spanish government’s participation as the single largest owner of IT provider Indra Sistemas has raised concern since the company could be exposed to the influence of a foreign government.

    Lawmakers warned that that the independence of the national elections from foreign interference is a major cause for concern that the Comelec should address in awarding the huge computerization contract.

    Indra Sistemas is the only rival of the Smartmatic for the supply of additional 23,000 units of Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines needed by the Comelec for the 2016 polls.

    Yusi informed Pimentel that the Spain-owned IT provider has failed to meet the entire requirement to qualify to bid for the P2-billion Comelec contract on the automation of the 2016 national polls.

    She maintained that Indra failed to submit proof of its largest contract similar to Comelec’s precinct-based OMR project.

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