Wednesday, 4 March 2009

11 foreign firms eyeing Philippine elections deal


(UPDATE) Eleven companies recently expressed interest in supplying voting and counting machines for the Commission on Elections' use in the 2010 elections, poll chairman Jose Melo said on Tuesday.

In a press briefing, Melo said the companies expressed their desire to bid for the P11.3-billion contract to supply the automated election system in the 2010 national and local polls.

The companies were: Sequoia, Avante, Hart, Scrantron and ES/S, all from the United States; Smartmatic (Venezuela), DRS (United Kingdom); Bharat (India); DVS Korea (South Korea); Gilat Solutions (Israel); and Indra System (Spain).

The companies have demonstrated precinct count optical scan (PCOS) solutions to the House of Representatives and the Comelec, said Melo, with some vendors like Smartmatic also presenting direct recording electronic machines.

“The demonstration at the Comelec is for information purposes only and is part of [the] environmental scanning of the poll body to know what technology is available. There is no obligation on the side of the Comelec that those who presented will be favored over another vendor,” Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said.

In an earlier interview, Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino also clarified the presentations are not a pre-qualification for parties interested in bidding.

He said the poll body can begin publication of the invitation to bid on April 3 if the budget is released April 1. The submission and opening of bid proposals will end May 4 after which the Comelec will issue the notice of award to the winning bidder on May 22.
Tolentino said 80,000 PCOS machines will be deployed in clustered precincts nationwide.

The Comelec Advisory Council recommended the use of PCOS machines because these can provide a paper trail and allow an easier transition from manual voting to the automated poll system, said Jimenez.

Using the PCOS, voting is done by shading ovals next to the candidate's name and feeding the marked ballot into a voting machine instead of a ballot box.

Once the polls close at 6 p.m., the machines will electronically transmit the results from each precinct to major and minor political parties, the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas and an accredited poll watchdog, the four entities authorized by Republic Act 9369 to receive the results.
The results are also transmitted to the Comelec's consolidation server at the poll body's Manila office.

For overseas absentee voters, Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer said they plan to have manual voting and automated canvassing “due to limited budget.”

In past elections, he said, the poll office at Hong Kong had to count votes for three days without a break.

For Filipino seafarers, Ferrer said he would recommend to the Comelec en banc the implementation of Internet voting.

Meanwhile, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines lauded the House of Representatives for approving the proposed P11.3 billion budget for the automation of the 2010 presidential and national elections.

“This is what we've been hoping for, that automation would finally be implemented,” CBCP president and Jaro (Iloilo) Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.

He said the approval of the poll automation budget would boost the morale of the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) and the Parish Pastoral Commission for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), both chaired by former ambassador to the Vatican, Henrietta De Villa.

Lagdameo said the two election watchdog groups have been preparing to adjust their own operations under an automated election system.

“This is what Namfrel and PPCRV have been hoping for. For sure, there will be modifications in their procedures. Mrs De Villa has been going around for that,” the prelate said.

The proposed budget also has to be approved by the Senate.

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