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SOLON TOLD: DFA confirms DC post covers Smartmatic

Posted on: July 10, 2009

SOLON TOLD:
DFA confirms DC post covers Smartmatic

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 08:16:00 07/10/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Computing & Information Technology

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed the jurisdiction of the embassy in Washington DC to authenticate bid documents of multinational Smartmatic, clarifying earlier allegations made by Senator Francis Escudero that another embassy has jurisdiction over the firm, a poll executive said.

“In its letter to Comelec, DFA confirmed that the Philippine embassy in Washington DC, United States has consular jurisdiction over the country of Barbados, where the foreign bidder Smartmatic is based. I believe this clarifies Sen. Escudero’s belief that the key document should have been authenticated by the Philippine consulate in Caracas (in Venezuela),” Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan told INQUIRER.net.

In a Senate committee hearing in June, Escudero reportedly urged Comelec not to sign the automation contract with Smartmatic because its secretary certificate, a document containing the basic information of the company, was “not properly authenticated.”

Quoting DFA’s letter, Rafanan said that the Washington DC embassy with jurisdiction over Barbados-based Smartmatic “provides consular services including the authentication of documents from Barbados for use in the Philippines” pursuant to DFA orders.

The Philippine embassy in Caracas, Venezuela has oversight jurisdiction over Barbados, meaning the jurisdiction is “for purposes of monitoring and reporting” only, not for authenticating documents, added Rafanan.

“I hope this puts to rest issues and allegations that the Comelec and its bids committee hastily awarded the contract. From the beginning, we are very transparent and we have been very strict in the bidding and during the post qualification of the bid documents submitted to us. I believe the contract signing we will be smooth-sailing,” said Rafanan.

Rafanan was “disappointed and criticized” the petition filed by lawyer Harry Roque that seeks to stop the Comelec from signing the automation contract on grounds that the bidder lacked the required joint venture agreement and its machines did not pass required specifications.

Rafanan said Smartmatic and TIM submitted a joint venture agreement stating that they will incorporate once they are awarded the contract and its JV has been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Rafanan clarified that Roque mixed up the figures for the 0.005 error margin for the poll machines in reading ballots and the 2 percent rate of machine breakdown, dismissing claims that the poll machines failed during the testing and demonstration.

“Smartmatic said during the Senate hearing that rate of machine breakdown is at 1.5-2 percent. The public should not worry on this because Comelec made a better provision of standby machines at 2.75 percent, that is higher than 1.5 or 2,” said Rafanan.

On Friday, the Comelec is set to sign the automation contract with Smartmatic and TIM, which tendered a P7.2 billion bid to provide 82,200 poll machines for the 2010 elections.

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