Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has reportedly pulled out all the stops in attempting to win over justices to green-light the P300-million “midnight deal” between the Smartmatic-Total Information Management (Smartmatic-TIM) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), a source told The Manila Times on Monday.
Majority of the justices, however, view the “extended warranty contract” as a violation of Republic Act (RA) 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act when the Comelec negotiated the same with Smartmatic without the benefit of a public bidding.
The contract was tagged as a “midnight deal” because it was signed three days before Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. retired last February 2.
The SC justices are holding en banc sessions in Baguio City and they have reportedly calendared the Smartmatic case for deliberations on Tuesday.
The Times source said all eyes would be on Sereno when the High Court formally convenes to tackle the case.
During the March 23 deliberations, according to the source, Sereno was fighting tooth and nail for the Comelec-Smartmatic contract not to be stopped.
Sereno and Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco voted against issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking the Smartmatic-Comelec deal while 12 justices approved petitions filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Bishop Broderick Pabillo and former Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman.
“Sereno was all-out fighting for Smartmatic. Halos makipagpatayan siya sa loob para sa [She fought hard for] Smartmatic. We will wait now whether she will act and vote again in favor of Smartmatic,” The Manila Times source in the tribunal said.
Majority of the justices, however, remain convinced that that the deal should be declared “null and void.”
Another SC source said many of the justices are in favor of adopting the draft ponencia of Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
The TRO effectively stopped the Comelec from implementing a contract tapping Smartmatic for the repair and refurbishing of vote-counting machines to be used in the 2016 elections.
SC spokesman Theodore Te earlier said Sereno and Velasco dissented “because they were of the view that the issues should’ve been heard first on oral arguments before issuing a TRO.”
A petition has been filed with the High Court seeking to declare null and void both Comelec Resolution 9922 and the contract with Smartmatic for alleged violation of RA 9184.
Comelec Resolution 9922 approved Smartmatic’s P300-million “Extended Warranty Proposal [Program 1]” through direct contracting. The deal authorizes Smartmatic to examine the 80,000 machines for refurbishment, conduct full diagnostics of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines and perform maintenance minor repairs.
The Comelec said the TRO would affect 81,000 PCOS machines “that are central to the automation of the 2016 elections.”