IT’S STILL ROUGH ROAD ALL THE WAY FOR COMELEC
The consortium partners Smartmatic and TIM may have reconciled their
differences around the bidding process but the nature of their joint
venture has already tainted the preparations for the May 2010 automated
polls. The Comelec, furthermore, has not resolved the more important
question about the integrity of the vendors who will fully automate and
manage the whole electoral exercise.
“Time has run out and to be able to go around their timetable is to short
cut many processes especially in the software programming that will run
the election system nationwide,” the Center for People Empowerment in
Governance (CenPEG), a think tank based in the University of the
Philippines today said.
Prof. Bobby Tuazon, CenPEG political analyst, said the reported patching
up of the bid partners is no guarantee it will be smooth sailing all the
way and the 2010 automated elections clean and credible. He said “the
Commission on Elections (Comelec) has to hurdle more problems at hand and
ahead if it aims to make the May 2010 automated elections clean and
In the first place, Tuazon said, Comelec should now make a full disclosure
of the terms agreed upon between the consortium and the poll body
particularly on the disbursement of payment.
“The scandal that has wracked and tainted the transaction cannot be erased
unless there is a full disclosure and transparency of all documents and
terms related to the project,” Tuazon said.
“The mess that’s now hurting the automated election process is Comelec’s
own doing,” Tuazon said.
In its haste to fast-track the automated elections, the poll body has been
short-cutting procedures and preparations and bending its own rules
including the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the bidding. “Unless Comelec
fixes its own management style in the middle of the ball game, the whole
country will end up with a failure of elections not only because of
wholesale electronic cheating but also Comelec’s own mismanagement.”
With the two-month delay in the election preparations, Comelec will now be
forced to short-cut everything else including the customization and
configuration of machine, manufacturing and deployment of the 82,000
optical mark reader units, training of election personnel, printing of
ballots, and other activities, Tuazon.
This will leave the Comelec all the more ignoring demands for safeguards
to be instituted in the automated election system (AES). CenPEG, for
instance, wrote the Comelec last May 26 asking the source code of the
technology to be reviewed first as required by RA 9369 but the official
request remains unanswered to this day.
In its ongoing study on the AES, CenPEG has spotted at least 30 vulnerable
areas of the whole system that if left unfixed or without safeguards will
result in the elections being manipulated by internal rigging and other
forms of cheating.
It took the Senate committee on constitutional amendments in a June 23
hearing to find that Comelec has, among other lapses, not done its work in
verifying the bid documents of the vendors especially Smartmatic-TIM. And
the poll needs to pacify concerns in the wake of allegations that powerful
politicians are dipping their fingers into the transaction in an attempt
to control the technology and, hence, manipulate the whole system in favor
of certain candidates and political parties, Tuazon added.
“Is Comelec ignoring its own bidding rule for vendors to attest to their
political neutrality and that they are not violating the legal doctrine of
conflict of interest?” Tuazon said.
By leaving it up to the winning consortium to automate the elections all
the way from manufacturing, customization, installation and operation of
the 80,000 optical mark reader machines, and electronic transmission of
votes Comelec is left with just manning the precincts on election day.
“The Comelec cannot just relinquish its mandate to conduct the elections
to a foreign company and a local partner whose credentials and performance
in previous elections here and abroad remain questionable,” Tuazon said.
“Unless Comelec put its act together and in complete control of the
electoral process without cutting corners, the automated disaster that we
anticipate in 2010 is bound to happen,” the CenPEG analyst said.
CenPEG is an independent policy institute and has served as an official
observer in Comelec’s procurement and bidding process as well as of the
Senate committee on constitutional amendments. Its studies on AES are
available for downloading at www.cenpeg.org.
For details of this news release, please contact:
Ms. Roda Manalac
CenPEG TelFax 9299526
Mobile Phone No. 09298007965