Saturday, 11 July 2009

Contract for Philippine 2010 presidential poll automation signed

Emilia Narni J. David and Ira P Pedrasa

The country would hold its first computerized elections next year after the automation contract, absent a stay order from the Supreme Court, was signed on Friday between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic TIM Corp.

"The bids were opened on May 4. So from May up to now it took quite a while to prepare. We are very eager to go on and automate the elections," said Comelec Chairman Jose A. R Melo in a press conference after signing the P7.2-billion contract.

The 25-page document was signed by the Comelec; Armando R. Yanes, Smartmatic chief operating officer; Salvador P. Auque, TIM (Total Information Management Corp.) senior vice-president; and Juan C. Villa, Jr. chairman of joint-venture Smartmatic TIM.

The notice of award was given to both companies on June 10, but the contract signing was delayed after TIM had announced its withdrawal from the joint venture due to differences with Smartmatic International Corp. They were prevailed upon by the Comelec to reconcile, and the joint venture’s incorporation was subsequently approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

Smartmatic TIM spokesman Cesar Flores said on Friday they would begin meeting a series of meetings with the Comelec project management office. "From now on, we are an extension of the Comelec."

He said the joint venture would soon order precinct count optical scanning machines to be delivered in November.

In finalizing the document, Mr. Melo said they did not set aside issues raised in the filing on Thursday of an injunction by the Concerned Citizen’s Movement (CCM) against the contract signing.

"We are not ignoring the Supreme Court, but the election is not like other projects like construction which can be postponed because we have to meet a time-line," said Mr. Melo.

No urgency

Meanwhile, the high court saw no urgency in issuing a stay order on the contract signing.

In a press conference on Friday, Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas P. Marquez said the petition filed by CCM led by Herminio Harry L. Roque has been raffled off to a justice.

"We did not get any recommendation [from the justice]. So there is no temporary restraining order. It will now be included in the regular en banc meeting on Tuesday," he said.

The petition is still valid despite the delay. Mr. Marquez said, "We still have sufficient remedies available to protect whatever they want to protect," such as a status quo ante order, or as if no document has been signed.

He added the court could consider the request to stop the release of fund to Smartmatic TIM. "The court may also ask that the parties [merely] comment on the petition."

The general elections would be held on May 10, 2010. The last day for filing of certificates of candidacy is on Nov. 30. The election period is 45 days before and 30 days after May 10.

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