IN announcing that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) will lease all new PCOS machines from supplier Smartmatic-TIM Corporation, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista explained that using the existing PCOS machines for the 2016 National and Local Elections was no longer an option mainly because of time constraints.
While agreeing with Chairman Bautista, Commissioner Rowena Guanzon opined, “What is further deplorable in this whole state of affairs is that Smartmatic seemed to have taken advantage of the time constraint the Commission is confronted with.”
Lack of time has become the Comelec mantra when making decisions at the last minute. The thing is, the Comelec is quite fully aware that elections are held every three years. The Comelec effectively has three years to prepare for each national and local elections.
Let’s look at a chronology of significant events relating to the Comelec’s preparation for the 2016 National and Local Elections:
November 13, 2013 – Comelec records would show that it received from Smartmatic-TIM Corporation a proposal for the Extended Warranty on or around this date.
March 27, 2014 – Twenty-six months prior to the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections the 2016 Comelec Advisory Council was organized. The CAC is tasked under the law to assist the Comelec and provide recommendations on the technology to be used for the elections and to prepare a report on the automated election system used for the elections to be submitted to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on the Automated Election Systems.
August 13, 2014 – The CAC issued Resolution Number 2014-002 recommending the re-use of the existing stock of PCOS machines “provided that the existing machines be subjected to rigorous quality assurance and testing processes” and “provided further, that the security features and minimum system capabilities required under RA9369, including those defined in the Request for Proposal for the Automation of the 2010 National and Local Elections be fully and properly implemented.”
October 30, 2014 – Smartmatic-TIM Corporation’s November, 2013 proposal for the Extended Warranty of the existing PCOS stock was referred to the Law Department.
November 4, 2014 – The Comelec Law Department advised against getting into a negotiated contract and advised that Smartmatic-TIM Corporation should instead fulfil its obligation of training the IT Department personnel.
December 23, 2014 – Comelec En Banc approved Resolution No. 9922 which allowed the Comelec to resort to alternative procurement or negotiated contract citing lack of time. Those who approved of the resolution were former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, former Commissioners LecenitoTagle and Elias Yusoph, and incumbent Commissioners Robert Lime and Al Parreño. Incumbent Commissioners Louie Tito Guia and Arthur Lim dissented.
January 30, 2015 – A negotiated contract for the repair and refurbishment of the existing PCOS stock was signed with Smartmatic-TIM just a few days before Comelec Chairman Brillantes was set to retire.
February 2, 2015 – Comelec Chairman Brillantes and two other Commissioners retire. Chairman Brillantes was quoted to have said, “The contract has not been signed but they kept on attacking us so I signed it. Now, I dare all of them to bring it up to the highest court of this land and I will fight for it up to the end.”
March 24, 2015 – The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order and enjoined the implementation of the extended warranty contract. The Supreme Court said in part, “The services of repair and refurbishment cannot be procured from Smartmatic-TIM through an ‘extended warranty’ mode, unless this Court assents to a blatant circumvention of the procurement law.”
June 30, 2015 – Bidding for the repair and refurbishment of 81,869 PCOS machines fails.
July 30, 2015 – Comelec announced that it will award the P1.7 billion lease contract for 23,000 new PCOS machines to Smartmatic-TIM.
August 1, 2015 – Second bidding for the repair and refurbishment of 81,869 PCOS machines fails.
August 13, 2015 – Comelec announced that it will use all new PCOS machines for the 2016 elections and the option to have the existing 81,869 PCOS machines repaired and refurbished no longer feasible due to time constraints.
The Smartmatic-TIM Extended Warranty proposal was submitted on November 13, 2013 and a negotiated contract was signed after 443 days. The reason given for the negotiated contract was the lack of time!
The Comelec’s program to bid out the repair and refurbishment of existing PCOS machines was destined to fail given that there were two other bids for the supply/lease of 93,977 new PCOS machines. Certainly, the supply of new PCOS machines was more financially attractive.
“Lack of time” has been forced upon the current set of Commissioners and the Filipino voters. The country will once again use an election technology that has been assailed for its many deficiencies. Even if its deficiencies were corrected, it will remain to be a non-transparent system.