Wednesday, 20 May 2009

‘Polls will be automated, no matter what’

Sara Fabunan
Business Mirror

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Tuesday it has set in place contingency plans if the ongoing bidding for the P11.3-billion poll automation project fails.

The Comelec’s Special Bids and Awards Committee chairman, lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, said they have in fact prepared and discussed contingency measures from “Plan B” to “Plan D,” but declined to bare details of the plans, except to assure the public that the 2010 electiona will be “fully automated” no matter what happens.

“We will have full automation. We assure the public that the Comelec is prepared for any eventuality. There are plans in place and the plans are up to plan D,” he said.

Last Monday evening, SBAC disqualified the consortium Indra Sistemas with their partners SAHI and Hart Intercivic for “noncompliance” with Comelec documentary requirements or for filing a partial bid.

As a result, Smartmatic and its partner Total Information Management (TIM) remained the only consortium qualified to bid for the poll automation, although the SBAC is still reviewing motions for reconsideration filed by other bidders.

The SBAC then ordered Smartmatic to prepare their machines for a “possible” demonstration in case none of the MRs filed by other disqualified bidders is granted.

The Consortia AMA Group Holdings and Sequoia Voting Systems and Universal Storefront Services had earlier been disqualified by the SBAC and filed their respective motions for reconsideration.

On Tuesday afternoon, while the SBAC was deliberating the appeal from other disqualified bidders, Jimenez conducted a short side interview with the remaining possible bidder (Smartmatic) regarding the accuracy of its machines.

“Earlier today, the SBAC gave instructions to one of the bidders to prepare for a possible product demonstration this afternoon,” he said.

However, after the interview with Smartmatic spokesman Juan Villa, AMA project director Johnny Ramos called the attention of Jimenez, accusing him of being unfair.

“Director James Jimenez is creating a perception that Smartmatic already won. That’s not good for us bidders here. We have been sitting here for five days waiting for SBAC to rule on the MR [motion for reconsideration]. We are very offended by that statement. Smartmatic will do their demonstration on what basis? The SBAC group said that they are not allowed to demonstrate unless our MR has been cancelled. He is not SBAC,” Ramos said, his body shaking with anger.

Jimenez clarified his remarks and reiterated his statement that there has been “no declaration” yet as to who is the lowest calculated bidder.

He said the Comelec wanted to make sure that everything flows as seamlessly as possible and that includes making sure that everyone who will have the opportunity to demonstrate their machines will be able to do so with “minimum delay.”

“The preparations that Smartmatic is undertaking are really just to make sure that they are ready in case it turns out that way [none of the MR of disqualified bidders was granted]. The Comelec is not creating an impression; it’s just that we have very little time left,” Jimenez explained.

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