Group: Buying old PCOS machines 'wrong move'

Posted at 04/03/12 1:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Another election watchdog is protesting the Commission on Elections' plan to purchase secondhand precinct count optical scan machines (PCOS) from Smartmatic-TIM for use in the 2013 midterm elections.

Ana Leah Escresa-Colina, executive director of labor think-tank Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (Eiler) and lead convener of Workers’ Electoral Watch (WE Watch), said Comelec's purchase of the machines shuts the door for Filipino IT professionals to help in next year's polls.

Colina said Comelec should have consulted local IT experts first before shelling out P1.8 billion to buy the machines.

“In the first place, the Comelec should not have considered Smartmatic an option as the foreign firm merely swept under the rug all allegations of electoral fraud and technical issues with the PCOS machines used during the 2010 polls,” Escresa-Colina said.

She said the move will “forever change the country’s elections, as it cements a highly questionable technology into the heart of the electoral system despite still unresolved issues with respect to the machines’ reliability and transparency.”

She said the legality of the purchase is questionable since the option to purchase the Smartmatic-TIM PCOS machines as stated in its TOR with Comelec for the 2010 elections expired last December 31, 2010.

“Since the option to purchase as stated in the TOR already expired, Comelec should have conducted a public bidding for the AES equipments under our public procurement laws. Public bidding is a democratic mechanism that ensures that COMELEC can choose the best option for the technology," she said.

Election watchdog Automated Election System (AES) Watch earlier said it will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to nullify the contract between Comelec and Smartmatic.

AES Watch said the poll body purchased the machines  despite various system flaws and technical glitches in the 2010 election.

The glitches include, among others, delays in the delivery of the machines, disabling of the ultra violet (UV) scanner, absence of a digital signature, the recall of thousands of compact flash (CF) cards days before election day, erroneous elections returns (ER), and result transmission problems.

"Instead of making Smartmatic-TIM accountable for its non-compliance with the law (Republic Act No. 9369) and system errors, four Comelec Commissioners -- remnants of the old Commission -- and the Chairman (Atty. Sixto Brillantes) chose to reward this foreign company with yet another deal," the group said.