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POLL EXEC SAYS Poll automation won’t be a ‘Mega Pacific’

Posted on: June 17, 2009

POLL EXEC SAYS
Poll automation won’t be a ‘Mega Pacific’

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 13:51:00 06/17/2009

Filed Under: Technology (general), Elections

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has hired two retired justices to review the 2010 automation contract to avoid the repeat of the 2004 Mega Pacific case.

“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,” Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan said Wednesday.

He said the poll body has tapped retired justices Hugo Gutierrez Jr. and Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez.

A legal panel including the two former justices, the Comelec Advisory Council and SBAC Technical Working Group, are now studying the contract for the 2010 poll automation, which was drafted and patterned after the automation contract of the 2008 elections in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Rafanan said that the contract has gone through three consecutive reviews since Saturday.

So far, the two justices have told Comelec to revisit provisions “that are prejudicial to Comelec and more beneficial to the bidder.”

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

“If the equipment will be prone to hacking, then that means the [poll] automation provider did not comply with the terms of the contract—it is them who should be liable for this, not Comelec. 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,” said Rafanan.

SBAC also revised the terms of “force majeure” or fortuitous events that are unforeseen by the bidder or are inevitable and have affected the performance of the terms of the contract.

Rafanan said force majeure situations were specified that would not make the bidder liable for performance of contract.

Public disorder, which was previously included as force majeure event, was struck down from the draft contract since “it is vague and unacceptable to cause non-performance” of contract terms, he added.

“Chairman Melo wanted all parts of the contract screened and sifted thoroughly. So far we had three reviews and we still have one final review with the bidder on Thursday to agree on the terms before the contract is presented for approval to the en banc and signed by Comelec and the winning bidder. We are very careful on the contract preparation because we owe clean automated 2010 elections to the people,” said Rafanan.

Netherlands-based Smartmatic and local partner Total Information Management won the automation contract as it bid to provide 82,200 poll machines for P7.2 billion.

The bidder submitted on Tuesday to SBAC the performance security in the form of letter of credit worth about P360 million or 5 percent of the automation contract, which would fund penalties should it fail to deliver equipment based on contract schedules, said Rafanan.

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