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Comelec’s P1.2-billion PCOS contract with Smartmatic faces court challenge

ELECTION watchdog Citizens for Clean and Credible Elections (C3E) said it is ready to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from eventually awarding the P1.2-billion contract for the repair and refurbishing of the 80,000 voting machines that were used in previous elections.

“We are going to the Supreme Court as soon as it seems there is no more chance to be heard in the Comelec,” C3E  Coconvener Hermenegildo Estrella said.

C3E’s statement was issued in response to reports that the poll body has already decided to do away with the bidding for the P1.2-billion contract for the repair of the 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines in favor of Smartmatic.

However,  Comelec Chairman Sixto  Brillantes immediately denied that the poll body has already decided to award the P1.2-billion contract to Smartmatic.

Brillantes said the Comelec awarded only the first portion, which is the P300-million maximum contract, and not the entire P1.2-billion contract.

The first portion, according to Brillantes, refers to P300-million contract for diagnostics examination and minor repairs.

On the other hand, the Comelec chairman said the second stage of the contract, worth P900 million, will be used for the actual repair and maintenance, while the third stage, which would be worth another P300 million, is for the upgrade of the machines.

Brillantes stressed that public bidding may still be conducted for the second portion depending on the results of the first stage of repairs.

But, the C3E warned that it will exhaust all legal remedies to prevent the Comelec from giving the contracts to Smartmatic.

“We will use all available means to stop the Comelec from further rewarding the inefficiency of Smartmatic,” Estrella said.

Estrella said the poll watchdog group and their allies are strongly opposed to the reported decision of the commission en banc to extend the poll body’s warranty contract with Smartmatic-TIM, instead of holding a public bidding.

“We are manifesting our strongest rejection of this callous and despicable act,” he added.

He said this is because they believe that Smartmatic has already lost control and ownership of the PCOS machines when the units were sold to the Comelec in 2012.

Citing provisions of the 2012 Deed of Sale between Comelec and Smartmatic, C3E pointed that “the control and ownership of the hardware and software shall be transferred to the buyer upon acceptance per batch of 20,000 units during the Hardware Acceptance Process.”

Estrella said this makes the threat of legal actions by Smartmatic-TIM for intellectual-property violation being committed by the Comelec when it contracts a different service provider, “false and bereft of basis.”

“The machines belong to the Comelec….  As the owner of the machine, opening it for repairs is not a violation [of the law]. An owner of a Toyota vehicle can opt to have his car repaired in any shop or by any mechanic he prefers,” Estrella added.

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