THE number of conscientious public objections against Smartmatic International Corp. is truly worrying for anyone interested in the sanctity and credibility of the presidential elections in 2016, anyone it seems but the powers that be in the Commission on Elections.
Several election watchdogs, led by Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E), have petitioned the Comelec to blacklist Smartmatic from further participating in Comelec bids because of the many problems of Smartmatic’s PCOS machines, to no avail.
The Comelec insists Smartmatic is legit and has done no wrong. It junked the latest petitions and qualified Smartmatic to participate in the public bidding for the P2.5-billion contracts for additional voting machines and other requirements for the 2016 elections.
I cannot for the life of me understand why despite all the defects and flaws of the PCOS machines, Comelec officials insist on favoring Smartmatic. I have already said this in a previous column. The Comelec’s latest decision favoring Smartmatic once again bears the whiff of raw partisanship.
And the fact that we need additional machines for 2016 after renting PCOS machines for P7.9 billion in 2010 and then buying them for another billion P2 billion in 2013 already offers conclusive evidence against the Comelec’s favored technology provider and speaks volumes against the quality of Smartmatic’s PCOS election system.
You mean to say that those billions we taxpayers paid were only good for one or two elections, not even six years apart? I mean, really, are we that stupid to keep paying for a flawed technology? The government seems to be.
In fact, the Comelec already announced that it will hold another public bidding for the repair of the 80,000 PCOS units. Guess who it will favor to repair their own machines?
Now wonder Smartmatic Asia Pacific president, the Venezuelan Cesar Flores is smiling all the way to the bank and can well afford to woo local celebrities and politicians.
In its Resolution 1 dated December 3 junking petitions against Smartmatic, the Comelec-Bids and Awards Committee said its authority to blacklist bidders is based only on the present bidding process and not on previous ones, such as what took place five years ago.
But the latest legal hitch against Smartmatic specifically involves what took place five years ago.
In a manifestation to the Comelec BAC, lawyer Archibald Demata, counsel for Indra Sistemas S.A., the other company which submitted eligibility requirements and initial technical proposals to the Comelec for the 2016 elections, said that Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp.’s existence is specifically only for the 2010 elections.
Demata pointed to Smartmatic’s Articles of Incorporation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) back in 2009 describing its joint venture (JV) with local partner TIM for the primary purpose of offering its services for the automation of the Philippine national election in 2010.
Because of the limited and time-bound nature of Smartmatic-TIM’s defined purpose, this means that Smartmatic-TIM is technically considered an unregistered company in the Philippines, Demata argues.
“To do, perform and comply with all obligations and responsibilities of, and accord legal personality to, the joint venture of Total Information Management Corp. (“TIM”) and Smartmatic International Corporation (“Smartmatic”) arising under the Request for Proposal and the Notice of Award issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the automation of the 2010 national and local election (“Project”), including the leasing, selling, importing, and/or assembling of automated voting machines, computer software and other computer services and/or otherwise deal in all kinds of services to be used, offered or provided to the COMELEC for the preparations and the conduct of the Project, including project management services,” read Smartmatic-TM’s corporation papers.
Demata said that as of December 4, 2014, the 2009 document remains to be the same registration papers in the records of the SEC.
He said Smartmatic-TIM violated Section 45 of the Corporation Code for its acts outside the powers for which said corporation was created as defined by the law of its organization.
In asking the Comelec BAC for its exclusion, Demata said, “Since, the purpose for which Smartmatic-TIM was formed was limited, specific and restricted to the automation of the 2010 national and local elections in the Philippines, to allow the continued participation of Smartmatic-TIM in the 2016 national and local elections, whether on its own or as a member of any joint venture, would be to sanction an illegal or ultra vires act by Smartmatic-TIM.”
“Smartmatic should be declared ineligible to be a participant in the proceedings because of these unfortunate elementary legal infirmities,” Demata said.
At the opening of bid documents at the Comelec, Smartmatic, in fact, admitted that its incorporation papers allowed it only to offer its services to the Comelec in the 2010 national elections.
Again, hear this, Smartmatic pleaded mea culpa and admitted Demata’s argument is true. That as a corporation it existed only for the 2010 elections.
This should have been sufficient grounds already for the Comelec Bids and Awards committee to disqualify Smartmatic from bidding for the 2016 elections.
And yet this Venezuelan firm with murky origins is still magically being considered as the Comelec’s service provider for the third straight Philippine elections.
The Venezuelan Flores even proudly declares that the Comelec is the largest PCOS user in the world and owns the largest contract for PCOS machines.
The government should not be so proud of this fact.