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Comelec: No stopping automation deal Poll exec says senator ‘grandstanding’

Posted on: June 24, 2009

Comelec: No stopping automation deal

Poll exec says senator ‘grandstanding’
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 14:48:00 06/24/2009

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

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will sign its contract with a technology consortium for the lease of election machines in 2010, a poll official said, as he dismissed questions raised by a senator on the deal as “political grandstanding.”

Comelec Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan dismissed as a “lie” Senator Francis Escudero’s claim that a key document should have been authenticated by the Philippine consulate in Caracas, Venezuela, since it has jurisdiction over Barbados, where multinational firm Smartmatic is based.

Rafanan said the Philippine Consul General to Washington DC, Domingo Nolasco, issued a certification that Barbados was within his jurisdiction. The document was authenticated by the Washington DC consulate.

The SBAC chairman said the signing of the contract between the Comelec and the Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. consortium could come as early as Friday, once the required documents are completed.

“The issue raised by Escudero, that the secretary certificate describing Smartmatic’s company information should have been authenticated by the Philippine embassy at Caracas in Venezuela and not in Washington DC since the company is located at Barbados, is a lie,” Rafanan told INQUIRER.net.

“This will not stop the poll body from delaying the signing of the contract and pushing through with the automation project for the 2010 elections,” he said.

“In raising this as issue, nothing substantial was achieved but merely political grandstanding,” he said.

In a separate interview, Comelec Chairman Jose Melo urged lawmakers and the public “to stop opposing Comelec’s plan for automated elections in 2010 by raising non-issues and instead support it.”

Rafanan noted that during the public bidding, there were no objections raised to the fact that the Philippine consulate in Washington authenticated the secretary certificate.

Smartmatic international sales director Cezar Flores maintained that there was nothing irregular about having the secretary certificate authenticated in Washington DC.

Flores said the same consulate authenticated documents Smartmatic provided when it bid for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) election automation project in 2008.

“I believe it’s the senator’s job to check facts on the contract. We maintain that we followed procedures as explained by Philippine embassies in Caracas and Washington DC that the latter has jurisdiction over Barbados,” he said.

“We are not backing out from the contract and we are continuing the conversations with Comelec to finalize the contract terms before it can be signed hopefully by the middle of next week,” he said.

Asked if the Comelec would grant Escudero’s request for a review of the automation contract, Rafanan said the poll body could only give him a copy of the deal “out of courtesy.”

“Escudero was asking us to review the contract. We may give him a copy to look at it, like anybody else, but not to review it. Recommendations to revise the contract can only come from Chairman Jose Melo, the authorized representative of Comelec to sign the contract and not from any other party outside Comelec,” he said.

Smartmatic tendered a P7-billion bid for the P11.2 billion automation project. It will lease precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to the Comelec to automate the counting of votes. The Comelec has the option to buy the machines.

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