Thursday, December 17, 2009

2010 elections will be automated, Comelec assures lawmakers

12/17/2009 | 10:18 PM

Original Story:

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Thursday assured lawmakers that the delays in the delivery of poll automation machines will not affect next year’s elections.

"Yes, we have difficulties, delays . . . but yes we will have an automated system. No ifs and buts. We will do our 100 percent of our country," Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said during the hearing of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election System.

During the hearing, lawmakers hit the Comelec for allegedly being soft on the Smartmatic-TIM consortium, the winning bidder in the multi-billion poll automation contract.

Opposition Senator Francis Escudero noted that Smartmatic-TIM is yet to be penalized even with the delay in the delivery of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in next year’s elections.

"Kung ia-adjust at ia-adjust ang deadline paano papasok yung penalty at delay sa kontrata? Ano pang silbi kung anumang pakiusap ng Smartmatic ay pagbibigyan at pakikisamahan ng Comelec?" Escudero, the co-chairman of the oversight committee, told reporters after the hearing.

(If Comelec will continue adjusting the deadline, then how can you penalize Smartmatic for the delay? What’s the point of the contract when Comelec will always agree to Smartmatic’s appeal?)

Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino confirmed that under the P7.2-billion poll automation contract, Smartmatic-TIM will be charged for every day of delay in the delivery.

Lawmakers pointed out that the delivery of machines has been delayed based on the timetable provided by the Comelec to Congress. In the timetable, the delivery of the machine should have started last November 26.

But in Comelec’s original proposal, the delivery should’ve started last October 1, 2009 and completed by December 30, 2009.

However, the Comelec posted a different time line on its Web sites, which moved the date of delivery to November 1, 2009 with full completion by December 31, 2009.

As of Thursday's hearing, the poll body has again moved the time line of delivery starting December 17, 2009 until February 22, 2010.

Asked on the responsibility and liability of Smartmatic on the delay, Sarmiento said he would have to look into the contract again but assured that there is a provision there for it.

Tolentino assured that all the 82,000 PCOS units will be delivered by February 22. He said 30,000 machines will be delivered to the country by end of December.

Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III, chairman of the Commission on Information and Communication Technology, defended the Comelec. "A lot of things happened, delays in signing of contract, on the approval of budget, cases filed against the contract," he said. - Amita Legaspi/KBK, GMANews.TV

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