Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Philippines' 2010 automated election assured; top bidder named

Emilia Narni J. David

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) en banc, through a resolution, has awarded the election automation contract to Total Information Management (TIM)/Smartmatic, finally ending speculation that next year’s polls would again be held via the fraud-prone manual method.

In an interview with reporters, Comelec Chairman Jose A. R. Melo yesterday said: "After this resolution, the special bids and awards committee will give the company the notice of awarding and then they can start manufacturing the machines."

He said the Comelec advisory council was concerned over the program’s source code "so we will ask Smartmatic to provide the source code. If they do not want to we will not agree." A source code is a set of readable text that allows computer programmers to "communicate" with software. It also determines whether the system is prone to hacking.

Mr. Melo noted the company provided the source code for machines in last year’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) elections.

Smartmatic was one of the service providers of the more expensive direct recording electronic system, or touch-screen technology, for the ARMM elections.

The poll body would also be requiring Smartmatic to post a performance bond worth around P35 million or at least 5% of its proposed automation budget.

TIM/Smartmatic was the only bidder left after six others were disqualified by the special bids and awards committee for failing to provide some documents. The bidding, which began over a month ago, originally had seven bidders. Smartmatic provided all documents and was the only company to demonstrate precinct count optical scan machines. The company is based in the United States but has offices in Venezuela, Spain, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Smartmatic’s bid was P7.2 billion for 82,000 machines covering 80 precincts nationwide — reduced from 200,000 due to the "clustering" of precincts — that would service about 45 million voters as of last count during the 2007 midterm elections. The company promised to provide results in 36 to 48 hours.

Mr. Melo said Comelec may "publish the bids of those who reached the financial stage like Smartmatic and Indra (Sistemas Consortium) for transparency’s sake."

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