Smartmatic still ‘best’ for 2016 – Palace ally

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Smartmatic: Total Information Management remains the best firm for refurbishment and repair of 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines for the 2016 polls, according to an administration lawmaker.

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Rep. Edgar Erice of Caloocan City (Metro Manila), vice chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, on Tuesday said he is convinced that Smartmatic is still the best fit since it was the same company that manufactured the PCOS machines.

Besides, he added, the Supreme Court (SC) has not disqualified Smartmatic from taking part in next year’s elections.

“I am of the belief that no company is more capable to refurbish and repair the PCOS [machines]other than Smartmatic. They patented [the machines]. They have proprietary rights over [them],” Erice told reporters.

The SC junked a P260-million contract that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) entered into with Smartmatic for the refurbishment and repair of the PCOS machines for the 2016 polls because the poll body failed to justify the direct contracting of the Venezuelan firm for the job.

“If the contract will go to another firm, the latter will have to get the schematic diagram from Smartmatic. And I don’t think Smartmatic will give such in a silver platter. Anyway, the Supreme Court did not disqualify Smartmatic. What it said was the Comelec should follow the bidding processes provided under the Procurement Law,” Erice pointed out.

“Filing a motion for reconsideration would be useless because the decision was unanimous. They will just have to call for another public bidding. If Smartmatic wins again in another public bidding in accordance with Procurement Law, there won’t be any problem,” he said.

Dasmariñas (Cavite) Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., vice chairman of the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability, earlier warned that the four remaining Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioners could face impeachment charges if they failed to conduct a fully automated 2016 vote.

Barzaga said going back to the manual mode of voting and counting would be in violation of the poll automation law, and that poll body’s officers should be held liable for such.

“The poll automation law prohibits a return to manual elections. A violation of the law could lead to the filing of impeachment complaints against Comelec officials,” Barzaga, a certified public accountant and a lawyer, added.

The four Comelec Commissioners are Christian Robert Lim, Arthur Lim, Al Parreño and Luie Tito Guia. Former Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. and ex-poll body Commisioners Lucenito Tagle and Elias Yusoph all retired last February 2. The Smartmatic deal was signed before their date of retirement.

“We already made a headway [with the automated polls]in pursuit of clean, honest and quick count in elections. By going back, the opposition might just accuse the administration of trying to rig the elections in favor of its candidates,” Barzaga said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. of Quezon City echoed Barzaga’s claims that manual elections would spell doom for the Comelec commissioners if not for lack of time.

The filing of candidacy is set for October, while the campaign period for those running for national positions will run from February 2016 to May 2016.

“Comelec Commissioners could face ouster in case they fail to act on the poll automation law. But this thing will not prosper in the House of Representatives because of time constraint,” Belmonte, also a lawyer and the vice chairman of the ruling Liberal Party, said.

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