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Ex-SC judges help draft poll automation deal

Posted on: June 17, 2009

Ex-SC judges help draft poll automation deal

INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:56:00 06/17/2009

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, State Budget & Taxes

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has tapped two retired Supreme Court justices to help draft its contract with the winning bidder for the 2010 automation project, an election official said.

The Comelec tapped retired justices Hugo Gutierrez Jr. and Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez to avoid a repeat of the scenario in 2004, wherein the high court nullified the poll body’s automation contract with the Mega Pacific consortium due to alleged irregularities, said Ferdinand Rafanan, who chaired the bids committee for the 2010 project.

“Comelec chairman Jose Melo made sure that the 2010 poll automation project will not be subject to legal challenges later on due to having questionable provisions that are unfavorable to Comelec or that might lead to the repeat of the 2004 Mega Pacific case,” Rafanan said.

“Chairman Melo wanted all parts of the contract screened and sifted thoroughly,” he added.

The two former SC justices are drafting the contract with the Comelec Advisory Council and the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) technical working group. It will be patterned after the contract for the 2008 automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The Smartmatic-Total Information Management consortium bagged the automation contract. It placed a P7.2-billion bid for the project, which was given a P11.2-billion budget by Congress.

Based on recommendations of the former justices, Rafanan said the SBAC deleted a provision in the draft contract, which stated that “the Comelec and not the bidder will be liable for unauthorized hacking of the equipment for poll automation.”

“We revised this term to state it is the bidder’s responsibility to ensure their system cannot be hacked to serve the purpose of cheats,” Rafanan told INQUIRER.net.

Under the draft contract, Smartmatic-TIM can only invoke “force majeure” when lighting downs transmission lines or cell sites, causing a delay or failure in the transmission of results, he said.

Public disorder will no longer be considered as “force majeure” because it is “vague and unacceptable to cause non-performance,” he said.

A final review of the contract was set on Thursday after three earlier reviews, he said.

Anna Valmero

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