The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has awarded the P1.2-billion contract to refurbish old Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to Smartmatic, according to election watchdog Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E).
C3E over the weekend said the Comelec approved on December 29, 2014 an extended warranty agreement with Smartmatic for the refurbishment of 82,000 counting machines in preparation for the 2016 elections.
The group said the Comelec en banc met on December 29 and voted 5-2 to award the project to the Venezuelan reseller of the automated election system against the recommendation of the poll body’s own legal department. The Comelec is set to promulgate its decision this week.
“We are manifesting our strongest rejection of this callous and despicable act. We will use all available means to stop the Comelec from further rewarding the inefficiency of Smartmatic, which is not even eligible to do business,” C3E co-convenor Hermenegildo Estrella Jr. said.
He added that Smartmatic is being rewarded despite its failure to meet basic eligibility requirements to qualify for the bidding for more counting machines.
Estrella said Smartmatic hardly passed the eligibility test when it submitted legally infirm registration documents of its joint venture with Total Information Management in 2009 that indicated its primary purpose was for the supply of automated election system for the 2010 elections.
In the bidding for 23,000 additional Optical Machine Reader (OMR) units administered by the Comelec’s Bids and Awards Committee, the BAC’s 14-man technical working group voted 9-5 to disqualify Smartmatic for lacking tax certificate in its prequalification papers. But the vote was later overturned in favor of the technology vendor.
C3E noted that Smartmatic, in its December 10 demonstration, presented basically the same technology owned by Dominion that was used in the 2010 and 2013 elections, the only changes being the size and the weight of the machines.
The poll watchdog said the system showed many of the same glitches that could gravely affect the electoral process, since the quality of scanned images did not improve from the previous system leased and later bought by Comelec from Dominion via Smartmatic.
“With this poor quality, inaccuracies will happen and the electoral process will be suspect; the security measure used to access the system does not assure unique log credentials for each BEI member, which could allow unauthorized access to the system,” C3C added.
It also noted that transmission problems encountered during the past two elections also have not been addressed. Also, Smartmatic had a problem with the decryption of the contents, a key feature that ensures the credibility of election results, which shows a lack of familiarity with this crucial process. This feature was not present in the system used by Comelec in the 2010 and 2013 elections.
“Smartmatic had problems importing the data into the EMS database. Again, clear lack of knowledge on these processes could result in inconsistencies of the databases used to prepare the pre-electoral data and may result in difficulties for the Comelec to resolve on time in case of last-minute changes. It took Smartmatic three hours to execute the process, with machine changes and rebooting. Interestingly, Jarltech logo popped up on the screen during the boot up process. Imagine your system crashing several times during a demonstration, when one is supposed to showcase your capabilities, or lack of it. Smartmatic presented isolated pieces of functionalities and failed to demonstrate an end-to-end integrated system,” C3E said.
“The public knows how fast technology evolves. But the technology Smartmatic is selling seems to be caught in a time warp. Or maybe because Smartmatic is but a vendor and has no knowledge or the right to improve on what it is peddling,” it added.
C3E also debunked Smartmatic’s claim of exclusivity in the refurbishment of the PCOS machines sold to the Comelec in 2012.
“The machines belong to Comelec. There is nothing inside the PCOS machine [basically a scanner and printer combo with capability to transmit data]that cannot be reverse engineered, if at all needed. If indeed there are parts that are exclusive to Dominion, open the machine so it can be established which parts are not off-the-shelves-parts. That way, the public will see the quality of materials used,” Estrella said.
“As the owner of the machine, opening it for repairs is not a violation. An owner of a Toyota vehicle can opt to have his car repaired in any shop or by any mechanic he prefers,” he added.
The C3E wants Smartmatic banned from participating in any poll-related projects for reportedly violating laws and the Comelec’s rules and regulations.
The group’s co-convenor and National Labor Union president Dave Diwa had noted that the Comelec gave undue preference to Smartmatic despite the violations the company committed during past biddings.