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Comelec to test touchscreen voting system in 2016 polls

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Monday that it has approved the pilot-testing of touchscreen and Internet voting sytems in Pateros, Metro Manila, and select sea-based Filipinos during the 2016 elections.

Both Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes and the Committee on Overseas Absentee Voting head, Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, disclosed during separate interviews that the poll body has already issued a resolution formalizing the commissioners’ consensus to test the touchscreen and Internet voting systems.

“We have already issued a resolution, which is to use all the 410 Direct Recording Electronic [DRE] units in Pateros since it fits the requirements of pilot-testing,” Brillantes said.

Meanwhile, Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp. has to overcome yet another legal challenge in order to advance to the next stage of the bidding for additional voting machines for use in the 2016 national elections.

This after the bids and awards committee of the Commission on Elections was asked to exclude the Venezuelan firm from the proceedings on grounds of eligibility.

Lawyer Archibald Demata, counsel for Indra Sistemas SA, said the joint-venture company was not eligible to bid for having submitted legally infirm qualification documents.

“We have filed [a manifestation] before the actual demonstration because we believe that Smartmatic-TIM should not be allowed to proceed in the bidding because of that problem,” Demata told newsmen during a break in the BAC proceedings on Friday.

Specifically, Demata pointed to Smartmatic’s Articles of Incorporation filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) back in 2009, describing its joint venture  with local partner TIM for the primary purpose of offering its services for the automation of the Philippine national election in 2010. 

“To do, perform and comply with all obligations and responsibilities of, and accord legal personality to, the joint venture of Total Information Management Corp. [TIM] and Smartmatic International Corp. [Smartmatic] arising under the Request for Proposal and the Notice of Award issued by the Commission on Elections for the automation of the 2010 national and local election [project], including the leasing, selling, importing and/or assembling of automated voting machines, computer software and other computer services and/or otherwise deal in all kinds of services to be used, offered or provided to the Comelec for the preparations and the conduct of the project, including project-management services,” read Smartmatic-TM’s corporation papers.

Demata said that, as of December 4, 2014, the 2009 document remains to be the same registration papers in the records of the SEC.

He said Smartmatic-TIM violated Section 45 of the Corporation Code for its acts outside the powers for which said corporation was created as defined by the law of its organization.

“Since, the purpose for which Smartmatic-TIM was formed was limited, specific and restricted to the automation of the 2010 national and local elections in the Philippines, to allow the continued participation of Smartmatic-TIM in the 2016 national and local elections, whether on its own or as a member of any joint venture, would be to sanction an illegal or ultra vires act by Smartmatic-TIM,” Demata said.

As for the Internet-voting, Tagle said the Comelec en banc has agreed to pilot-test the system for Filipino seamen.

Tagle said the poll body is just waiting for the budget for the acquisition of the Internet-voting system before they can start the public bidding.

Section 28 of the amended Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2013 provides that the commission “may explore other more efficient, reliable and secure modes or systems, ensuring the secrecy and sanctity of the entire process, whether paper-based, electronic-based or Internet-based technology, or such other latest technology available.”

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