NPO: Nothing wrong with bidding for ballot printing

Posted at 11/08/12 4:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The National Printing Office (NPO) maintained that its contract with Holy Family Printing Joint Venture for the printing of ballots for the 2013 mid-term elections is legal and above board.

This came amid allegations that the bidding suffers many irregularities like the rejection of test ballots by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines of Smartmatic.Comelec Chair Jose Melo showing sample ballots to reporters, December 30, 2009.

NPO Director Emmanuel Andaya on Thursday took members of the media on a tour of the NPO facility, which would house the three printing machines that would be used to print the 55 million ballots needed for the mid-term elections.

The first machine is being installed and is expected to be completed next week.

Andaya explained that the NPO leased the machine from Holy Family, which in turn procured it from its German partner. The other two machines are expected this month.

Andaya added that in the second testing, Holy Family saw that 100% of the test ballots passed through the PCOS machines sans hitches. Andaya maintained though that it was not necessary to conduct the testing, which was done anyway just to satisfy the other bidders.

He said the second testing was done upon the orders of the Comelec.

Smartmatic previously told the media that the first testing saw the rejection of 40% of the test ballots.

Andaya said, "as far as NPO is concerned, the contract was legal and ongoing and without a court order disallowing us to continue to do it…"

He said the contract with Holy Family includes allowing the firm to source the paper. Andaya said they will not be printing more ballots than what is needed by the  Comelec.

Public scrutiny

Atty. Sylvia Banda, head of the Bids and Awards Committee that awarded and signed the contract with Holy Family last October 24, assured the media that they will release the contract to public scrutiny.

She sat down with the media to rebut the allegations of Smartmatic regarding the bidding.

Banda said that the YouTube video of the first testing of prototype ballots in early September did not show the proceedings in its entirety. She said that the prototype ballots during the first testing had a 60% passing rate, leaving about 40% that were rejected by the PCOS machines.

Banda stressed though that the first test was not part of the prescribed procedures for procurement and was just done to pacify all bidders.

She said the actual ballot testing that is part of the actual procedure is the second testing, which happened after the bidding last September 12. She pointed out that Comelec only gave NPO the procedures for testing on September 27.

Banda pointed out that the first test only had very few ballots, while the second test had some 1,000 prototype ballots. She added that even in 2010 when Smartmatic supplied the ballots, there were also samples that were initially rejected.

She maintained that the second test is not illegal.

NPO Assistant Director Raul Lagrampa explained that the Comelec en banc required the NPO to do the testing of the prototype ballots just to be sure before the contract was awarded.

Banda also said the bidding procedure did not specify the number of prototype ballots that will be tested.

Lagrampa also noted Comelec supplied them with a file of prototype ballots that will be printed by the bidders for testing.

Banda clarified that Holy Family's rivals for the contract, which included Smartmatic, were declared ineligible  to bid because they failed to meet the criteria set by procurement laws. She explained this is why they were not invited anymore to the second test. "Wala pong katotohanan ang mga naglabasan sa pahayagan, totally untrue."

Lagrampa said they are on track to meet Comelec's directive - to print 10,000 sample ballots by November 15. They are also expected to print 35,000 ballots for road shows, 500 ballots for mock tests and 22,000 for training.

Actual ballots by January

However, the official ballots with the final list of candidates won't be printed until January. They are supposed to deliver all official ballots at least ten days before the midterm elections.

Banda also refuted claims that Holy Family failed to meet the requirement to present a single largest contract.

In its appeal, Smartmatic presented a certification from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) that it has no contract with Holy Family for the printing of seamen's manuals. This was what Holy Family supposedly presented to comply with the single largest contract requirement of procurement laws.

Banda explained Marina and Holy Family really do not have a contract. She said the contract for those manuals was between NPO and Holy Family, since Marina deputized NPO.  "Mandato ng NPO is to print all forms. No agency can engage services of private printers. Wala naman po sinasabi saang contract dapat may contract lang.”

Banda also stressed that Smartmatic cannot use its automation contract in 2010 to comply with the single largest contract requirement. Its contract was only for the supply of the PCOS machines.

She also debunked reports that NPO officials were in Europe before the contract was awarded. Banda said NPO officials went to Europe long before the procurement for the contract even began.

ABS-CBN tried to reach Holy Family, but were told by security guards in its office in Congressional in Quezon City that none of their managers was around.

Based on its articles of incorporation with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Holy Family's primary purpose is "to engage in commercial as printer for any person or office, private or pubic, and as principal or agent to carry on the business as printer or newspaper, journals, magazines, books, and other literary undertakings."

Among its secondary purposes, the company is "to carry on the business of book sellers, book binders, stationaire, lithographers and any other business similar to the foregoing or any of them."

It listed its incorporators as Pampanga natives: Leopoldo Gomez, Jesus Gozum, Alfonso Macalino, Abraham C. Gomez, Gabriel M. Gomez and Rodolfo Lenon.

It has an authorized capital of P100 million.