Group asks Congress to probe PCOS deal
An election watchdog protesting deals between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic is seeking a thorough investigation of reports that money changed hands to ensure the award of contracts to the Venezuelan vendor of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.
The Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) said the Senate blue ribbon committee and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC), which is inquiring into alleged PCOS anomalies should give more weight to the reports that top Comelec officials received millions of pesos in exchange for the P1.2-billion contract to refurbish the PCOS machines and another contract worth P800 million to upgrade the same machines for the 2016 elections.
During a hearing of the JCOC on December 4, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim and Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, co-chairman of the JCOC, mentioned several times the Filipino word “pabaon” as the hearing delved into the contracts that the Comelec may award to Smartmatic.
Pabaon means going-away gift. Brillantes and two Comelec commissioners are set to retire next week.
The group said the mention of “pabaon” is alarming, thus, the need for an investigation to determine if some Comelec officials attempted to reward themselves with a so-called golden parachute for their retirement.
“2016 is crucial because we elect a new President that year,” C3E co-convenor Melchor Magdamo said.
“Do we entrust it to a service provider whose only qualification to conduct the elections for the Filipino people is that it bribed the Comelec?” he added.
“It’s our duty as citizens to stop this frightening scenario in which we would entrust the selection of our leaders to machines that have been proven to deliver inaccurate results and whose operators have refused to clear the air, much less be transparent in (their) dealings with the Comelec,” Magdamo said.
It was also at the JCOC hearing, according to him, where Brillantes perjured himself by claiming that he and two commissioners of the poll body were no longer participating in deliberations on matters related to preparations for the 2016 elections.
Magdamo, also a former Comelec lawyer, said Brillantes’ claim was a blatant lie.
“He lied through his teeth before the joint committee,” he added. “It’s very clear in the minutes of the JCOC meeting.”
Magdamo said Resolution 9922 of the Comelec en banc clearly showed that Brillantes lied.
The resolution, promulgated with secrecy on December 23 and approved by a 5-2 vote, extended the warranty agreement between Smartmatic and the Comelec.
The deal, worth P300 million, involves the diagnostic inspection of 82,000 PCOS machines used in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
Brillantes, along with retirement-bound Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph, voted in favor of the negotiated contract along with Lim and Al Parreno. Commissioners Lim and Luie Tito Guia voted against the deal.
Magdamo asked Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd and Rep. Senen Sarmiento, co-chairmen of the joint congressional committee, to cite Brillantes in contempt.
“Brillantes testified under oath and that oath did not mean anything to him. He should be cited in contempt for lying not only to the committee but also to the Filipino people in his haste to award the multi-billion peso contracts to Smartmatic,” he said.
But the Comelec chief dared critics of the PCOS deal to question it before the Supreme Coury once the contract is done.
“We’re prepared to go to the Supreme Court. That’s why we’re trying to finish the contract. But as it is, what is the contract that they are raising fuss about? Everybody is talking about the P300-million contract [for diagnostics], but the P300 million is just the cap price. We’re still negotiating,” Brillantes told the House panel on suffrage and electoral reforms.
He was responding to Executive Director Evi Jimenez of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance who questioned Comelec’s apparent haste in choosing Smartmatic.
“The machines came from Smartmatic itself, making them the most qualified company for the job. Besides, we are allowed to go through direct contracting under the procurement law,” Brillantes argued.
“This is not a midnight deal. We’ve been talking about it for one year. The only reason why we only came out with a resolution last December 23 was there was a lengthy debate on whether or not we can go directly to Smartmatic,” he said.