• Halt Comelec’s lease of OMRs, court asked

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    Advocates of Filipino migrant workers’ welfare have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from leasing 70,977 units of Optical Mark Readers (OMRs) for the 2016 elections.

    Francisco Aguilar Jr. and Guillermo Santos on Monday filed a 41-page petition for prohibition on Monday, urging the High Court to nullify a deal between the Comelec and automated elections system provider Smartmatic-TIM under Resolution 9980.

    Promulgated on August 13, the resolution ordered issuance of a Notice of Award for the over P6-billion contract to the joint venture of Smartmatic-TIM Corp., Total Information Management Corp., Smartmatic International Holding B.V. and Jarltech International Inc. as the bidder with the lowest calculated responsive bid.

    Petitioners sought immediate issuance of writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) or temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop implementation of the deal.

    In coming up with the petition, Aguilar and Guillermo accused the Comelec of having acted with grave abuse of discretion in issuing the resolution, arguing that it is “to the detriment of the government and the petitioners” and “an act of spending splurge of the [Comelec] which must be stopped by the [SC].”

    The two pointed out there are still available 81,896 old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, which could have been very well be refurbished and/or upgraded in time for next year’s polls, and the lease of the 93, 977 new units of OMR “would only entail illegal, irregular or unnecessary expenditures.”

    The PCOS machines were leased by the Comelec from Smartmatic in 2009 at a cost of P7 billion and purchased in 2012 for P2 billion for a total of P9 billion.

    “The Comelec, in leaving the 81,896 PCOS machines in the warehouse unmaintained and not refurbished to the gross disadvantage of the government, constitutes wastage of public resources or property, and thus a transgression of its fiscal responsibility,” read part of the petition.

    “[The] non-use of these PCOS [machines]raises a serious accountability issue as undue injury would be caused to the government through gross inexcusable negligence,” it said.

    The petitioners claimed the Comelec “inhibited free competition in the market or otherwise contravened the policy concerning monopolies and combinations in restraint of trade,” at the expense of public interest, when it “did not consider other prospective bidders despite their capacity to render practically the same undertakings as those offered by Smartmatic joint venture.”

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