The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to explain a “sweetheart deal” it had entered into with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic-TIM).
In deliberations of the SC en banc, magistrates ordered the Comelec to lodge its comment within 10 days on a petition filed by an election watchdog and its plea to halt the deal.
They did not issue a temporary restraining order, which will stop the Comelec-Smartmatic contract for the repair of machines to be used in the 2016 polls.
Instead, the SC will hear arguments of opposing parties before it decides whether a TRO will be issued.
On Monday, the tribunal was asked by election watchdog Automated Election System Watch (AES Watch) to junk the Comelec contract worth P1.2 billion for diagnostics, repair and refurbishment of 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be reused in the 2016 elections.
AES Watch is composed of Bishop Broderick Pabillo; former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman; Dr. Pablo Manalastas, a computer science faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University and University of the Philippines; Leo Querubin of the Philippine Computer Society; Concepcion Bragas-Regalado, founding president of Migrante International; Dr. Jaime Caro of the UP Department of Computer Science; Marikol Akol, co-organizer of TransparentElections.org.ph; and Evita Jimenez, executive director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG).
According to the petitioners, the election court committed grave abuse of discretion and violated the Constitution and the procurement law for issuing Resolution 9922, dated December 23, 2014, where the Comelec, voting 5-2, approved Phase 1 of Smartmatic-TIM’s extended warranty proposal amounting to P300 million without a public bidding.
The contract covers the examination, diagnostics and some minor repairs of the PCOS machines, which Smartmatic itself provided for the May 2010 polls.
AES Watch asked the High Court to issue a TRO and/or writ of preliminary injunction to stop the deal.