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Poll exec denies P2M bribe in automation bid Critics told, get ready for libel suits

Posted on: May 29, 2009

Poll exec denies P2M bribe in automation bid

Critics told, get ready for libel suits
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 19:59:00 05/29/2009

Filed Under: Computing & Information Technology, Eleksyon 2010, Graft & Corruption

MANILA, Philippines—An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) denied allegations that the bids committee for the P11.2 billion automation deal was bribed by the lone qualifying bidder.

“I deny that categorically,” Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan said on Friday.

He maintained the bidding process was clean. “This bidding process has been fully transparent and very honest right from the very start. I. They want to destroy everything.”

Rafanan was reacting to an SMS message received by the media from an unknown sender claiming that the “Comelec has received a P2 million bribe from Smartmatic” so it decided to continue testing the poll machines even if it short circuited and smoked during the technical evaluation on Thursday.

“I haven’t even received such message. They are cowards and liars. I’m ready to face them along, anywhere anytime,” said Rafanan.

“To those making accusations get ready for libel suits,” Rafanan said as he warned critics of poll automation who want to affect the credibility of the bidding process and those who made allegations the poll body received bribes for the automation bidding.

In a separate interview, Smartmatic also denied they bribed anybody or the Comelec to stay in the final leg of the bidding.

“We are undergoing a very transparent and very difficult process. We are not allied with any political party and we are a purely private company—we are not owned by the Venezuelan government as alleged. And we cannot be bought,” said Cesar Flores, Smartmatic sales director.

“It is very curious those accusations arise when we have almost passed all criteria in the technical evaluation. It seems some can’t accept how to lose. If we win it’s because we win honestly,” Flores added.

In addition, Smartmatic issued a letter to the SBAC regarding allegations it has been involved in election rigging in other countries through its poll machines.

In the letter read by SBAC, Smartmatic wrote chief legal counsel Chandler Molina: “With the multiple disparaging comments about Smartmatic International attributed by the Philippine media to bidders who were declared ineligible or disqualified by the SBAC, we have never been sued for or found guilty for of any wrongdoing in any country in the world including the United States of America.”

Rafanan said the bids committee is actively doing its duty to verify the authenticity of documents submitted by the bidder.

Rafanan also urged the media covering the bidding to try casting their votes using the demo machines and see how the system works. The poll official appealed to media to avoid being used “by those out to destroy this process.”

Earlier this month, Rafanan figured in a ‘YouTube scandal’ that allegedly links him to a deal fixing with one of the disqualified bidder Gilat Satellite Networks, F.F. Cruz and Co., and Filipinas Systems.

Rafanan pointed out he was not even on the YouTube video and that it was mere “mudslinging” to taint the moral clout of the Comelec bids committee.

“We will have automation elections and we will procure the system in a very honest, transparent bidding,” said Rafanan.

During the ongoing technical evaluation of the machines, Comelec Commissioners Leonardo Leonida and Lucenito Tagle, along with Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierez and election lawyer Sixto Brilliantes cast their votes on the poll automated machines Friday afternoon.

The four were invited by Rafanan to test the capacity of the machines, and to test casting their ballots using a poll automated system.

On Thursday, Senator Mar Roxas sent representatives to observe the demonstration of the machines.

“All members of Congress and critics of poll automation are invited so they can see we have a very transparent bidding and they can understand how automation works,” said Rafanan.

Earlier the same day, members of the media cast their votes and fed marked ballots on the machine to simulate voting.

As of posting time, poll machines of Smartmatic-TIM has passed 24 of the 26 criteria for technical evaluation while the SBAC is doing post qualification of eligibility bid documents of Smartmatic and TIM.

The automation contract will be awarded by first or second week of June, he added.


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