Smartmatic: Comelec can take over telecom facilities

Posted at 02/17/2010 9:42 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Poll automation supplier Smartmatic-TIM on Wednesday said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has the power to take over facilities that can be used as a main data center for the electronic transmission of votes during the May 10 elections.

Gene Gregorio, spokesperson of the Smartmatic-TIM, told ABS-CBN's Umagang Kay Ganda that the Comelec is allowed by the Constitution to use that power "if needed."

"The Smartmatic-TIM can't. I think its within the constitutional powers of the Comelec," Gregorio told Umagang Kay Ganda when asked if its possible to forcibly take over facilities if telecommunications companies would refuse to provide them a data center.

He said that a data center is one of the most important parts of the automated elections system.

He explained that after sending electronic election returns to the municipal level, the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines would have to send data to the data center, which in turn, will send the received data to the Comelec's central server in its main office in Manila.

Gregorio said that data centers would handle "something as complex as electronic election returns" and is important for securing data that would be transmitted by the PCOS machines.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez confirmed to abs-cbnNEWS.com that "in theory" the poll body has the power to forcibly takeover facilities owned by Globe and PLDT-Smart and use them as data centers.

Jimenez, however, clarified that the Comelec is not inclined to exercise that power.

"That is a power we are highly unlikely to exercise," he said.

Gregorio, meanwhile, said that providing a data center for the May 10 automated elections is part of the contract it signed with the Comelec.

He said Smartmatic-TIM and the Comelec's task force on telecommunications are preparing a backup plan in case agreements with the mobile network providers fail to push through.

"This is being discussed by the joint telecommunications task force of the Comelec comprised of the NTC, CICT and DOTC (National Telecommunications Commission, Commission on Information and Communications Technology, and Department of Transportation and Communications)," Gregorio said.

The latest hurdle on the Comelec's push to fully automate the May 10 elections was raised during Tuesday's joint congressional committee on poll automation.

Lawmakers were informed that Globe and PLDT-Smart have expressed second thoughts about letting the poll body use their data centers for the elections.

Globe had earlier agreed to set up the main server that will contain the election results in its facility in Makati City while PLDT-Smart was supposed to house the back-up server in its office, also in the country's main business district.

During the hearing, Globe proposed to setup an alternative site for the main data center for fear that the data from the elections could interfere with its corporate and government files. The other company is also proposing an alternative site.

Both companies, however, have assured lawmakers and the Comelec that they will not back out of their participation in the country's first attempt to fully automate the election system.

The Comelec was scheduled to inspect on Wednesday the alternative sites being proposed by both telecommunications companies.