• Counting machine bidders snub Comelec

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    EXCEPT for a little known bidder, nobody else, including bitter rivals Smartmatic-TIM Corp. and Indra Sistemas S.A., participated in Monday’s pre-bid conference called by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the supply of P2.5-billion worth of additional counting machines for use in the 2016 polls.

    The pre-bid conference was preparatory to the second round of bidding for the P2.503-billion lease of 23,000 units of precinct-based Optical Mark Reader (OMR) or optical-scan system and the P31.272-million lease of 410 units of precinct-based Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) technology.

    During the pre-bid conference, Comelec-Bids and Awards Committee chief Helen Flores said only Scytl Secured Electronic Voting purchased bidding documents for the DRE machines, and none at all for the OMR units.

    Scytl also went for the DRE project during the first round of bidding but was disqualified along with four other firms during the first stage of the competitive bidding, leaving Smartimatic and Indra to slug it out for both the OMR and DRE projects.

    The BAC disqualified Smartmatic and Indra during last month’s second round of the competitive bidding for submitting non-responsive proposals.

    Flores attributed the anemic turnout of interested bidders to a pending appeal filed by Smartmatic with the Comelec en banc after the BAC denied its motion for reconsideration (MR).

    Indra’s MR was also denied but it is yet to file an appeal with the Comelec en banc.

    Flores explained that other bidders were possibly hesitant to participate because it is still possible that the Comelec en banc may reverse the BAC decision and rule to re-open the first round of bidding.

    She said interested bidders have still until March 30 to purchase the bid documents.

    Under Republic Act 9184, once there is a “failed bidding,” the contract must be “re-advertised and re-bid” and shall be opened once more to all interested parties.

    Meanwhile, election watchdog Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) lashed back at “congressional bullies” who have seemingly kowtowed blindly to the bidding of Smartmatic, allegedly a discredited reseller of election systems that may put the 2016 elections far from being honest, peaceful, transparent and credible.

    “What certainly will compromise the integrity of next year’s electoral process is the blind refusal of some leaders of Congress to even lift a finger on what ails Smartmatic and its PCOS [Precinct Count Optical Scan] machines. Instead, they have turned into avid defenders and bullies swinging at every opportunity at those who have come in the way of the Venezuelan company,” C3E co-convenor Alain Pascua said.

    C3E took exception to alleged links between election watchdogs and other groups seeking the ouster of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.

    Earlier, the vice chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, Rep. Edgar Erice, asked election watchdogs to come clean on their alleged links to the National Transformation Council (NTC), saying next year’s polls may be in trouble if there is truth to reports that “there are ties that bind” the groups.

    “C3E as an organization is not part of the NTC. We are advocates of constitutional transfer of power through clean and credible elections,” Pascua said.

    According to him, C3E is not interested on whoever the next President will be, saying they are only for honest and credible elections.

    Pascua said proof of C3E’s sole advocacy for honest polls was the case it filed with the Supreme Court to disqualify the Venezuelan technology reseller.

    “There is no sense filing cases with the courts against Smartmatic and the Comelec if our objective is for the ouster of the President,” he added.

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