‘Smarter’ Comelec-Smartmatic sought

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The 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines–which the Commission on Elections leased from Smartmatic for P7.9 billion with option to purchase for the 2010 elections and bought for P1.8 billion for the 2013 elections for a total cost of P9.7 billion–might go to waste if the Comelec could not convince Smartmatic to refurbish and upgrade them for P3 billion for purposes of the 2016 elections.

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Since the Supreme Court (SC) annulled the initial contract of the Comelec with Smartmatic for refurbishment of these PCOS machines, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said on Wednesday, there has been no qualified bidder to undertake such project.

“Even Smartmatic did not participate in the bidding because it allegedly lacks the time to finish the repair of 82,000 PCOS machines in February 2016, the deadline set by the Comelec,” he added in a statement.

This, according to Macalintal, leaves the poll body to look into the possibility of leasing some 71,000 PCOS machines, again from Smartmatic, for P7.8 billion, which will supplement the previous 23,000 PCOS machines already leased by the Comelec from Smartmatic for P2.5 billion.

This means a total of P10.3 billion for the 94,000 PCOS machines if no one could refurbish the existing 82,000 PCOS machines for the 2016 elections, he noted.

“If I were the Comelec, I would offer Smartmatic a win-win proposal: half of the number of PCOS machines to be repaired and half of the number of new PCOS machines to be leased at [also]half their respective prices,” Macalintal said.

Thus, he added, “Smartmatic to refurbish one-half of the 82,000 PCOS machines for P1.5 billion and the Comelec to lease from Smartmatic one-half of the 71,000 PCOS machines for P3.9 billion or a total of P5.4 billion (P1.5 billion plus P3.9 billion) for refurbishment and upgrade of 41,000 PCOS and for lease of 35,000 new PCOS machines, respectively, thereby saving the government the amount of P2.4 billion (P7.8 billion less P5.4 billion), and without putting to waste the P9.7 billion cost of these 82,000 PCOS machines.”

For sure, Macalintal said, more than 50 percent of the 82,000 PCOS machines are still in tip-top condition, thus making it easy for Smartmatic to refurbish and repair them before February 2016.

“Smartmatic, which has done substantial business with the Comelec and other companies in the Philippines, could show its good faith and concern for honest elections in our country by accepting this type of proposal for the lease and repair of its PCOS machines,” he added.

Macalintal also noted that the company has already made business with the Comelec with the latter’s initial lease of 23,000 PCOS machines for P2.5 billion for the 2016 elections.

With P1.5 billion for refurbishment of 41,000 PCOS machines and P3.9 billion for lease of 35,000 PCOS machines, he said, Smartmatic gets a total of P7.9 billion contract with the Comelec for the 2016 elections.

This, according to Macalintal, “is already a huge contract Smartmatic should not refuse as it practically represents close to 50 percent of the P16- billion budget of the Comelec for the 2016 elections.”

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